Herrera, SFPD target illicit cocaine, meth paraphernalia in neighborhood smoke shops

Defiant shopkeepers ignored police warnings and community pleas by marketing wares intended for hard drug abusers, dealers

rock-on-smoke-shopSAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 17, 2011)—City Attorney Dennis Herrera was joined by neighborhood and local merchant associations at a press conference today to announce the City’s lawsuits against six retail smoke shops in the Ingleside and Mission neighborhoods for illegally selling drug paraphernalia exclusively intended for users and dealers of cocaine, crack and methamphetamine. Operators from four shops in Ingleside and the two in the Mission have defied police warnings to halt the illicit sales, and several have long flouted community complaints about marketing drug wares in close proximity to schools and playgrounds.

“These smoke shops are profiting illegally from a drug trade that devastates human lives, and puts enormous burdens on our police and public health services,” said Herrera. “Selling paraphernalia for cocaine, crack and meth diminishes a neighborhood’s quality of life, and shows utter disregard for public health and safety—especially for nearby children. I am very grateful to Interim Police Chief Godown and police officers from the Ingleside stations for their excellent work to build the factual basis for this litigation. I’m thankful, too, for the efforts of neighbors who’ve worked hard to address this lawlessness.”

The lawsuits Herrera filed in San Francisco Superior Court follow an extensive investigation and undercover operation by the San Francisco Police Department, which identified the six smoke shops as linchpins of neighborhood criminal and nuisance activity on the basis of calls-for-service, police reports, community surveys, and site visits. Named as defendants in the cases are operators from the six shops, together with three property owners who had been warned by police that their tenants were unlawfully marketing drug paraphernalia. Establishments named in the lawsuits are: House of Cigarettes at 912 Geneva Avenue; Mission Gifts & Tobacco at 4784 Mission Street; The Platinum at 5901 Mission Street; Rock On at 4447 Mission Street; Smokes, Etc. at 3186 16th Street; Tobacco Plaza Center Smoke & Gift Shop at 186 16th Street.

Drug paraphernalia found in the listed stores, according to Herrera’s complaints, include: crack pipes, which are glass tubes with small pieces of steel wool or copper scrubbers usually inserted to facilitate smoking crack; meth pipes, which are variously sized glass tubes with a spherical bowls to smoke crystal methamphetamine; gram scales favored by drug dealers to apportion and prepare cocaine, crack and methamphetamine for sale; and cutting agents such as inositol, which drug dealers commonly employ to expand the volume of methamphetamine for sale.

Herrera’s lawsuits charge the defendants with maintaining a public nuisance and committing unlawful business practices, including the sale of illicit drug paraphernalia in violation of the California Health & Safety Code. If successful, the litigation could result in civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation and tough court-ordered injunctions.

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