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Mayor, SFPD promise to clean up Civic Center Station

Police monitoring and needle kiosk part of pledge to cut down on open drug use

An empty corridor at Civic Center Station.
An empty corridor at Civic Center Station.
Photo by Pi/Wikicommons

In response to months of mounting criticism and anxiety about conditions at the Civic Center BART and Muni station, outgoing San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell and San Francisco Police Department Chief Tony Scott mounted a joint press conference on Wednesday promising to more resources to clean up the troubled transit hub.

Speaking to reporters, Mayor Farrell promised that police, BART, and city services would reduce open drug use and detritus at the station “while ensuring that our at-risk individuals receive the services and support they need.”

The first step: a kiosk upstairs at United Nations Plaza to dispose of used needles, in hopes that fewer needles will end up on the street, in the station, or even on the trains themselves. The San Francisco Chronicle notes that this is the first and only such depository at any BART station.

SPFD Chief Scott also promised hundreds of additional personnel hours for cops to actively patrol Civic Center Station, which will be a joint effort between SFPD and BART police outfits.

Previously, some of the early morning commute hours saw a gap in police shifts. In April, an unfortunately viral video shot by a train rider showed dozens of people huddling in the station and injecting drugs in the morning, apparently timed to avoid police intervention by waiting for the schedule gap.

Since then, Bay Area riders have uploaded images of discarded needles or even piles of needles to social media with increasing frequency; it’s not clear if this represents an uptick in the problem or just in the number of people paying attention to and complaining about it.

Although driving needle use out of Civic Center seemingly runs the risk of just pushing it somewhere else, the city plans to open its first safe injection site this summer, which City Hall hopes will curb risky behaviors and collateral sanitation problems.