Pubdate: Wed, 31 Jul 2002
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2002 San Francisco Examiner
Author: Richard Byrne Reilly
Note: Adrienne Sanders contributed to this report
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


As the body count continues to climb in Oakland and across the nation, 
local cops are bracing for an escalation in the bloodbath between local 
gangs vying for turf and the lucrative trade in crack cocaine.

"We're preparing for the worst," said SFPD Investigator Brian Peagler of 
the department's Gang Task Force.

While tame by Oakland's homicide standards -- 65 so far this year and 
climbing fast -- the rate of gang-related murder is rising in San Francisco.

There have been 42 homicides so far this year in The City, a majority 
related to gangs and crack, a 22 percent increase from the same period last 

In addition, seizures of crack and related arrests have continued to rise 
for the third-straight year, and cops see no letup in supply or demand.

As a result, the Gang Task Force is building bridges with counterparts in 
Oakland to help stem the across-the-Bay transfer of drugs and their 
dealers, building a network of informants in the neighborhoods hardest hit 
by the crack trade and maintaining a high-visibility.

But with limited manpower, limited money and lenient sentencing guidelines 
for small-time crack dealers and first-time offenders, turning the tide in 
San Francisco is slow going, cops say.

Narcotics Inspector Gavin McEachern likens San Francisco to a 24-hour, 
open-air drug bazaar with a seemingly endless supply of not only crack but 
also heroin. As soon as cops close down one street network, the dealers 
simply pick up and move to another neighborhood, be it the Mission, 
Tenderloin or Bayview.

"The crack trade hasn't slowed down at all. We spend months hitting them, 
and then they move on. When they do, it usually takes us two months to 
catch up," McEachern said.

The shortcomings of the police department, budget constraints and a poor 
track record solving crimes, are good news for the dealers.

"It's a huge gig and we could sure use some help," said Peagler.

Of the seven years Peagler has been with the department, the escalating 
violence and drug trade in the Western Addition, which he works 
exclusively, is the worst he's "ever seen."

Peagler attributes much of the killing and shooting to retaliatory hits and 
feuds among thugs who've known each other for years, some of them since 

"There is a lot of tension in the Mission right now," said a gang 
prevention counselor who asked to remain anonymous. "A lot of murders 
haven't been solved between Surenos and Nortenos. "

Recent driveby shootings in Bayview put Latin gang members on the 
offensive, said the counselor.

"It brings up fear of getting caught by rival enemies," he said. "The air 
gets thicker. These kids go to school together."
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