San Franciscans overwhelmingly approved ballot measures Tuesday expanding police presence and requiring people take drug tests to receive government aid.

Politically moderate mayor London Breed introduced Propositions E and F to help stem San Francisco’s high rates of homelessness, drug overdose deaths, crime and retail flight.

The Safer San Francisco Initiative (Prop E) cuts government red tape preventing police from identifying and catching criminals. The measure, which passed with 59% of the vote, reduces officers’ administrative duties by only requiring written incident reports in case of injury or an officer drawing their weapon; permits the admission body camera footage in lieu of some written reports; and limits the amount of time an officer can spend completing paperwork while off-duty.

Prop E also frees up police to initiate car chases (if they can be conducted safely),  and install surveillance cameras without Police Commissioner approval.

Breed suggests these deregulations will help cops crack down on rampant theft plaguing the city.

Prop E eliminates duplicative reporting requirements, reducing the amount of time officers are behind a desk and getting them back on the street. It changes the rules to get more officers pursuing criminals, allow[ing] officers to actively pursue suspects of felonies and violent misdemeanors, including retail theft, vehicle theft, and auto burglaries, so long as the pursuit can be done safely.

The Treatment and Accountability Measure (Prop F) gives officials authority to drug test single adults receiving cash assistance from the city or county. Welfare recipients with substance abuse problems will only continue receiving money if they enroll in a treatment program.

Prop F received even more support than its companion bill with 63% voter approval.

Some critics claimed the measure lacks compassion and would impoverish addicts who didn’t want to seek treatment. But Breed defends Prop F as “striking the right balance between compassion and accountability” to ensure people with substance abuse problems enter treatment:

Under current state law, San Francisco lacks tools to compel people into treatment. The City deploys street teams to offer voluntary services and connections to treatment. While some people do accept help, many do not, being unwilling or unable to do so.

Breed’s point speaks to the inability of government money to solve the homelessness problem. The city’s budget for addressing homelessness increased every year between 2016 and 2021, culminating in $1.1 billion.

But homelessness remains high. The city’s 2022 Point-In-Time (PIT) report, which counts the number of people homeless in an area on a single night in January or February, found 7,800 homeless people living there. The number of people using San Francisco’s homelessness services also increased every year between 2016 and 2020 — while the government was pouring money into getting people on their feet.

One explanation for this disconnect, which Prop F would address, is the larger connection between drug abuse and homelessness.

More than half of the 7,800 homeless people surveyed in 2022 said drug and alcohol use contributed toward their inability to find housing.

Of the total number of homeless people, 2,700 (35%) were classified as chronically homeless, meaning they had been homeless for more than one year, or for a cumulative total of one year over four or more episodes of homelessness in the past three years.

Almost 100% of the chronically homeless population were single; 22% claimed drug or alcohol abuse caused them to be homeless, as opposed to only 9% of those who weren’t chronically homeless.

Hopefully San Francisco citizens will watch crime, homelessness and overdoses decrease in the wake of Prop E and F. But even if they don’t, deep-blue San Francisco’s decisive approval of Breed’s bipartisan policy is one of three encouraging examples of bipartisanship to emerge in the past week.

On Monday, all nine Supreme Court justices issued a unanimous ruling — a rare occurrence on such high-profile cases. Last Thursday and Friday, Oregon’s state legislature voted to recriminalize hard drug in two nearly unanimous votes.

As America enters a contentious political season, I am grateful for examples of citizens finding something in common — and those who brave political censure to unearth common ground.

Additional Articles and Resources:

Oregon Lawmakers Vote to Recriminalize Hard Drugs

Citizens Turn Against Lax Drug Laws as Consequences of Drug Addiction Overwhelm Communities