The San Francisco Police Department said on Tuesday authorities arrested 18 people and seized a cache of weapons and drugs, breaking up a massive drug dealing ring allegedly operating between the East Bay and San Francisco.
According to police, officers as well as agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms served search warrants at nine locations last week, mostly throughout the East Bay.
In addition to the arrests, authorities seized 17 pounds of drugs, 12.5 pounds of which were fentanyl, as well three guns, two 30-round high-capacity magazines and $27,000 in cash.
According to police, narcotics investigators believe Oakland-based “mid-level” drug traffickers worked with drug trafficking organizations in Southern California, buying from them large amounts of drugs, including fentanyl.
The local traffickers then supplied street-level dealers in the Tenderloin. At times, some of the accused mid-level traffickers engaged directly in street dealing themselves, police said.
Of those arrested, eight have been charged by federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, two are facing charges from the ATF, and the remaining eight will be charged by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
Federal prosecutors allege some of the accused dealers went as far as using dyes to color the fentanyl bright colors as a branding method.
Investigators believe there is a link between a rise in gun violence in the Tenderloin and the sale of fentanyl. The neighborhood has seen an increase in shootings, both fatal and nonfatal, by 71% over the last year, with 21 reported at this time last year compared to 36 so far this year, police said.
Fentanyl has also been blamed for a sharp increase in overdose deaths in The City, as well as across the nation, in recent years.
“The staggering loss of life we’ve seen due to drug overdoses is a public health calamity San Franciscans haven’t witnessed since the height of the AIDS crisis,” San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said in a statement. “Our street drug trade has been nearly twice as deadly as COVID-19 in San Francisco. While the primary chemical culprit is fentanyl, drug-related gun violence is beginning to take an increasingly troubling toll.”
“The disturbing upward trend of organized fentanyl sales in our cities is a triple threat: fentanyl is deadly, its organized trade attracts violent offenders, and its sales and use devastates neighborhoods,” Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds said. “Our prosecutions target those who seek to turn our city streets into open fentanyl marketplaces.”