On Scene with Bill Wilson City Attorney Targets Tenderloin Markets

By Bill Wilson
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2012

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City Attorney Dennis Herrera announces the filing of civil lawsuits as Police Chief Greg Suhr looks on.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera was joined by San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr at a news conference Monday, January 30, to announce the filing today of civil lawsuits against two Tenderloin markets for facilitating rampant illicit drug trafficking in close proximity to schools, playgrounds, daycare centers, and senior housing. The litigation follows undercover police investigations that for more than two years documented numerous instances in which the markets operated as virtual safe havens for the sale of cocaine, crack, heroin, prescription painkillers and other drugs. Both markets were also found to have engaged in the purchase and resale of stolen merchandise, according to the city’s complaints.

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Market at Leavenworth and Turk in the Tenderloin.

Defendants Barah Market (also known as “Azaal Market”), at 200 Leavenworth Street, and Razan Deli, at 391 Ellis Street, have been the subject of a combined 182 calls for police service during 2011 alone, and are believed to have played a role in hundreds of other nearby incidents requiring a police response. Herrera is seeking court orders to close both businesses for a period of one year; civil penalties of $25,000 each for maintaining a public nuisance; additional penalties of $2,500 for each act of unlawful business practices; disgorgement of all profits from illegal activities; restitution; and attorneys’ fees and costs — including costs of the investigation. The dual lawsuits filed in San Francisco Superior Court this morning allege multiple violations of the California Drug Abatement Act, Unfair Competition Law, and other state and local laws.

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City Attorney Dennis Herrera

“The markets we are suing today have played central roles in drug dealing and other crimes that have afflicted this neighborhood for too long,” said Herrera. “Barah Market and Razan Deli are profiting illegally from a drug trade that devastates human lives, and puts enormous burdens on our police and public health services. Their lawlessness shows contempt for the health and safety of neighbors — especially nearby children and seniors — and diminishes this neighborhood’s quality of life. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work with the San Francisco Police Department under the leadership of Chief Greg Suhr. Their excellent work has enabled us to build a strong factual basis for our litigation, which we hope will go a long way toward protecting residents and improving the neighborhood.”

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Police Chief Greg Suhr

“We are grateful to City Attorney Herrera and his office for bringing suit against these two businesses,” said San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr. “The SFPD and the CAO, on behalf and with the support of San Francisco’s affected neighborhoods, work together to identify irresponsible businesses and bring them into compliance. There is no place in this City for businesses that allow, engage in, and/or support criminal activity.”

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Police Chief Suhr speaking at a press conference this morning across the street from the Barah’s Market one of two businesses that were sued in Superior Court.

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BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past seven years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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