SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Transit authorities made new promises of action to fight rampant drug use in BART’s Civic Center station Monday as officials met with San Francisco leaders.
Video KPIX 5 aired recently that showed the dark reality inside the station with people blatantly using drugs out in the open during the early morning hours has escalated the search for solutions among BART officials.
Despite the attention, the problems have persisted. As thousands of passengers made their way through the turnstiles and station agents worked to keep things tidy, drug users keep finding spots to get a fix.
“BART PD can work hard and be cleaning a hallway, and 20 minutes later, it’s chaos,” said member of the BART Board of Directors Bevan Dufty.
Monday brought the latest meeting between BART police and San Francisco police, this time at the city’s Emergency Management headquarters.
“We are working well together,” said San Francisco Police Commander David Lazar. “Today, Tenderloin officers tweeted out that they were in BART station, walking around, saying hello to everyone.”
But there were no police around when KPIX cameras caught a young couple possibly in their early 20s stopping to shoot up in a hallway at the station Monday afternoon. So while law enforcement might be pushing, the flood of drugs at Civic Center station and on the streets above keeps pushing back.
“Yeah, it’s gotten worse out here, last six months or so. More people out on the streets,” a homeless man named Jesse told KPIX.
“Just law enforcement isn’t the answer,” said Kelly Cutler with Coalition on Homelessness.
That was the message from homeless advocates who joined Monday’s meeting.
“One discussion that’s going on is with safe injection sites that actually connect people to treatment,” said Cutler. “That’s the thing; we don’t have enough of those resources available.”
Also on hand were representatives from San Francisco’s court system. They said there are justice solutions short of jail time.
“Some people, particularly when they have a mental health challenge or a substance abuse problem, they need an extra impetus,” said Allison West with San Francisco Superior Court. “And sometimes the court can be that impetus to get them the treatment they need.”
So the discussion of service resources and law enforcement continues, as does the human crisis unfolding in and around the Civic Center.
“Really, it’s coordination between public safety and social services. That’s what our riders want, said Dufty. They don’t just want to see people arrested, they want to see people get help.”
This push is coming largely from Mayor Mark Farrell’s office. He’s hosting another meeting later this week.
KPIX approached the young couple spotted trying to have a fix in the hallway as they left the station and asked what services they might be receptive to getting.
They replied “none,” saying they were just in town from Oakland for the day, again illustrating there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this crisis.