San Diego Police Chief reveals top police problems at La Jolla Kiwanis meeting

San Diego Police Department chief David Nisleit revealed that a task force — consisting of members of his department, the Sheriff’s Department, the DEA and the City District Attorney’s Office — is trying to enact stricter penalties for distributing the unusually potent opioid fentanyl.

Nisleit — speaking at the Jan. 4 Kiwanis Club of La Jolla luncheon — said that police are currently working backwards from each overdose death, “to figure out who gave that dosage of fentanyl and look at that person for manslaughter.” He said a couple of cases are “moving forward,” adding that “only a couple other counties and cities are doing this.”

Fentanyl was one of several issues discussed when Nisleit, who was promoted to the City’s 35th police chief last March, took questions from an audience of about 30 Kiwanis Club members at La Jolla Presbyterian Church.In addition to fentanyl, Nisleit identified two other key issues currently on his department’s radar: human trafficking and computer crimes.

Human trafficking — which Nisleit described as “predominantly being done by African-American gangs” — is spiking in popularity because it’s easier and more lucrative to bring a group of prostitutes across the country (“kind of on a tour,” Nisleit said) and sell the same people over and over, than it is to sell narcotics, where a set amount depletes with each sale.

Nisleit said that human traffickers are more difficult to prosecute than drug dealers, adding to the crime’s attraction.

“With narcotics, one thing crooks do that’s very common is they like to talk,” Nisleit said, “who else is involved and who’s the bigger fish. With human trafficking, they threaten to kill the victims and their families. So, it’s a very hard case to prosecute.”

As for computer crimes, Nisleit reports the only positive upside of this trend is a sharp decrease in physical bank robberies, “because most folks don’t need to go into a bank anymore to rob it … and their exposure in getting caught is far less — especially if they’re sitting over in Russia or China, where most of those scams are coming from.”

When asked about La Jolla’s growing homeless crisis, Nisleit laid most of the blame on lack of mental-health funding, guessing that “the majority of folks” facing homelessness in San Diego have either mental-health or addiction issues.

“Most of the time, it goes hand in hand,” Nisleit said, “and what you’re seeing is a lot of those folks medicating using illicit street drugs.”

Although the U.S. population has nearly doubled in the last 30 years, Nisleit said, beds for mental-health patients have decreased by about half during the same period, “so most of those folks are in the street.”

Just one night earlier, Nisleit said, an officer was involved in a shooting with someone suffering from mental-health issues.

“There’s just no funding for it, no facilities for it,” Nisleit said, “so a lot of these folks, they get treatment real quick and get released — sometimes within 72 hours max. It’s a revolving door.”

Nisleit also blamed Prop 47, which reduced drug-possession felonies to misdemeanors in 2014.

“There’s really no incentive for somebody who’s addicted to drugs to get help,” he said. “If I catch you with methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin, you’d get a ticket that looks just like I would give you for running a stop sign. I can’t put you in jail for it.”

— Kiwanis Club of La Jolla has a luncheon meeting with a guest speaker every Friday, noon at La Jolla Presbyterian Church, 7155 Draper Ave. Guests are welcome. (858) 900-2710. kiwanisclublajolla.org

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