Pilot program targets pill pushers

Police sting operations battling illegal pill sales at a long-troubled Tenderloin intersection have inadvertently pushed the dealing to nearby blocks, but cops say they have been making headway in banishing pushers.

Police are in the beginning stages of a pilot program to reduce rampant illegal pharmaceutical pill sales at Turk and Leavenworth streets — one that includes bi-weekly nighttime stings, tracking repeat offenders and an increased push to ban out-of-town dealers from hawking in The City.

Along with stings, more cops have been posted in trouble spots to prevent the crimes.

The heightened presence has helped to reduce dealing, Tenderloin Station Capt. Joe Garrity said. But it has also pushed some of the activity to Hyde and O’Farrell streets and to Turk and Hyde streets, he said.

In response, police have also conducted stings on the Hyde Street corridor, Garrity said. In a recent week of stings, he said 11 sellers were arrested.

As part of the health and safety code pilot program, which is expected to grow in the next few months, police plan to log drug arrests and citations into a closely tracked database and consult with the District Attorney’s Office to stiffen consequences for repeat offenders.

City officials also plan to monitor an intervention program for dealers at the Community Justice Center, Garrity said.

Police are also considering posting signs at the entrances of businesses and buildings in drug-addled areas warning about enforcement of the health and safety code, Garrity said, as well as launching stings with plainclothes officers targeting crooks who rob drug dealers.

A San Francisco Examiner probe into the problem last summer revealed dozens of drug deals take place only feet from children walking to a nearby elementary school.

Police Chief George Gascón has said that jailing street dealers is like “paddling against the current,” and last summer announced efforts to work with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to bust law-breaking doctors, pharmacies and patients with prescriptions.

Last month in San Francisco, the owner of a large online pharmaceutical company pleaded guilty in a federal courtroom to illegally hawking $48 million worth of controlled drugs.

In October, the DEA said CVS Pharmacy admitted that it unlawfully sold pseudoephedrine to criminals who make methamphetamine.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsCrimeCrime & CourtsLocalSan Francisco PoliceTenderloin

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