Governor Newsom and San Francisco Leaders Announce New Effort to Investigate Opioid-Linked Deaths

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Governor Newsom and San Francisco leaders are establishing a new task force to investigate opioid-linked deaths and poisonings to further hold drug traffickers accountable.

SAN FRANCISCO — Building on the state’s partnership with the City of San Francisco to address the fentanyl crisis, today Governor Newsom, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, and Police Chief Bill Scott announced the formation of a new joint law enforcement task force to investigate opioid-linked deaths and poisonings in the city. The new task force will include personnel from the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office (SFDA), the California Highway Patrol (CHP), and the California National Guard (CalGuard).

The task force will treat opioid deaths in San Francisco similar to homicide cases — employing standard operating procedures to document deaths, gather relevant evidence, process intelligence to further map out the supply of fentanyl and large crime syndicates, and hold drug traffickers accountable.

WHAT GOVERNOR NEWSOM SAID: “The opioid crisis has claimed too many, and fentanyl traffickers must be held accountable including, as appropriate, for murder. This task force is fighting for those affected by this crisis — for victims and loved ones who deserve peace. Working together, we will continue providing treatment and resources to help those struggling with substance use — and secure justice for families who have lost loved ones.”

“Fentanyl is deadlier than any drug we’ve ever seen on our streets,” said Mayor London Breed. “We must treat the trafficking and sale of fentanyl more severely and people must be put on notice that pushing this drug could lead to homicide charges. I want to thank Governor Newsom for continuing this support in San Francisco, and all of our state law enforcement agencies for working with us to hold those who sell this deadly drug accountable. This continued partnership between local, state, and federal enforcement agencies is making a difference.”

“The new task force will equip the City and County of San Francisco with a deeply necessary investigative ability. Traditionally, overdoses have not been investigated as murders,” said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. “Now, working together we will be able to investigate fatal fentanyl overdoses where evidence may be collected to establish a connection to the person who provided the drugs that killed someone so that they can possibly be charged with murder.  Drug dealers and traffickers have caused the death of far too many individuals in our community and this new tool will give us a better chance to hold them accountable for the true dangerousness of their conduct.”

“We refuse to stand idly by as fentanyl dealers continue to profit from the tragic deaths they are causing in our city,” said San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott. “We are proud to stand with our city and state partners to better hold these dealers accountable and make San Francisco safe for all.”

“The California Highway Patrol is proud to be part of this innovative law enforcement collaboration happening in San Francisco to map out the crime rings fueling the fentanyl pipeline — and ultimately crush them,” said CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee. “Our skilled investigators are unmatched in their commitment to serve the people of California, solve crime, and bring justice.”

“As part of this new task force, our analysts at the California National Guard will work behind the scenes to connect the dots — to identify dealers, suppliers, and traffickers so law enforcement can secure justice,” said Major General Matthew Beevers, CalGuard. “We’ve had tremendous success serving in a similar role in San Diego and Fresno and we’re ready for this mission.”

Through investigative efforts, evidence gathering, and data analysis, the task force will seek to identify and disrupt opioid distribution networks in San Francisco that are responsible for fatal overdoses and poisonings. Similar efforts have proven successful in other cities, including San Diego and Fresno, where CalGuard analysts contribute support to opioid-linked death investigations. San Francisco’s task force is expected to be fully operational by early next year.

San Francisco has seen an alarming rise in fentanyl-linked deaths. Since the state began its increased law enforcement efforts in San Francisco on May 1, 2023, the CHP has seized 18.5 kilos of fentanyl and made 364 felony and misdemeanor arrests in the Tenderloin and the surrounding area. The CHP’s efforts are part of a collaborative operation between multiple agencies, including the CHP, CalGuard, the California Department of Justice, SFPD, and SFDA. The joint effort is focused on improving public safety, targeting fentanyl trafficking, disrupting the supply of the deadly drug in the city, and holding the operators of drug trafficking rings accountable. The operation builds on the Governor’s Master Plan for Tackling the Fentanyl and Opioid Crisis, which includes an expansion of CalGuard-supported operations that last year led to a 594% increase in seized fentanyl and historic levels of funding — $1 billion statewide — to crack down on the crisis and assist those struggling with substance use.