One addict-turned-activist warned San Francisco has become the "epicenter" of the nationwide drug crisis as the city struggles to come up with the resources to battle the "cartel-fueled" calamity.
Pacific Alliance for Prevention and Recovery founder Tom Wolf joined "Fox & Friends First" to discuss how organized crime has fueled the city's opioid crisis as drug-related overdoses continue to skyrocket.
"Unfortunately for San Francisco, we've become the epicenter of the overdose crisis in the United States," Wolf told Ashley Strohmier said Tuesday. "We have the highest overdose death rate per capita of any county in the United States right now, and if we don't step in and intervene – and what I mean by intervene is, we need to actually come in and take these organized drug dealers down because they are cartel-fueled, organized drug dealers that are operating on our streets."
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"And we have about 500 of them right now operating in San Francisco in broad daylight, right on the street for everyone to see, and we just don't have enough resources to stop them," he continued.
His comments come as disturbing video shows paramedics loading another dead body into an emergency vehicle last week, after their third overdose call of the morning.
Between January and February of this year alone, there were 131 accidental drug overdose deaths, according to the San Francisco office of the chief medical examiner.
Critics have blamed the border crisis for fueling the surging drug deaths in recent years, as officials have now seized more than 800 pounds of fentanyl between ports of entry this fiscal year alone, a source told Fox News.
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The 800 pounds include a recent bust in Southern California where Border Patrol found 232 pounds smuggled in a vehicle during a traffic stop in San Clemente – enough to kill 50 million Americans.
Wolf noted there were 647 overdose deaths in San Francisco last year, suggesting the current trend could outpace last year's data if officials don't step in.
According to the San Francisco office of the chief medical examiner, 458 of those overdoses were connected to fentanyl.
Wolf pinned blame on the police department shortages, arguing there are little incentives for new officers to seek employment and veteran officers to stay in the city as they leave the force in droves.
"We're down 500 police officers in our city," Wolf said. "We took $28 million of funding away from the police two years ago. Nobody wants to come to the city to become a cop. People are retiring and leaving from the police force. So, yeah, we're really under the gun."
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"We just don't have the resources to combat this cartel-fueled, organized drug dealing that's really killing our city right now," he continued.
An audit of state records revealed the San Francisco Police Department hired dozens of either unqualified or undocumented officers to tackle the surmounting shortage, according to a report published last week.
Within the last seven years, there were 45 officers in the Bay Area who were missing critical information in their hiring records like fingerprints, proof of citizenship, graduation records, and incomplete psychological exams and background checks.
Wolf called on city and federal officials to step in to mitigate the crisis. He also noted the importance in identifying the drug surge as both a matter of public health and criminal justice.
"They're saying it and framing it more in that, well, this is just a public health crisis, it's not a criminal justice issue when the reality is, is that it is both of those things," Wolf said. "When you're ignoring one piece of the solution… you've heard that term half measures avail us nothing. That's basically what San Francisco is stuck in. They're stuck in doing these half measures."
"So guess what? People are still continuing to die, and our neighborhood continues… to be harmed by the drugs and the drug dealing that's happening right now," he continued.
Fentanyl, which is fatal in even small doses, has been at the heart of the opioid crisis that has killed tens of thousands of Americans each year.
The drug is 50-100 times stronger than morphine and is often cut with other drugs, meaning that the user doesn’t know they are ingesting fentanyl. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says the 2.2 pounds represent half a million lethal doses.
Fox News' Adam Shaw and Bill Melugin contributed to this report.