San Francisco police are touting a new round of pointless arrests that they made last week during an eight-day operation to discourage sex work in a section of the Mission District where it has basically existed, undeterred, for three decades or more.

The sting operation was conducted over eight nights, between Wednesday, May 8 and Sunday, May 19, partly using plainclothed officers, the SFPD explains in a release. The main focus was on Shotwell Street between 18th Street and 21st Street, and they also kept tabs on a secondary location at South Van Ness and 18th Street.

This resulted in 30 arrests — 17 of whom were johns, and 13 of whom were sex workers. Ten of those arrested were SF residents, while the other 20 were from elsewhere in the Bay Area or from out of state.

"Mission Police Station will continue to patrol and conduct operations in this neighborhood which is being negatively impacted by the increased foot traffic of illegal sex workers and vehicles," the SFPD says in a statement. "This flow of people committing crimes from littering used condoms, double parking, and blocking roadways in addition to the acts of prostitution has created hazardous street conditions for those who live and work in the area."

SFPD officers conducted a similar operation in March 2023, arresting 30 johns on Capp Street — where much of this sex work activity had been going on before the city installed traffic-blocking barriers there. Neighbors had complained for years about the sanctioned red-light district that existed here, but some also noted that if the city put up barriers on Capp Street, the activity would likely just move over to Shotwell, with the two alley streets often trading off being hot spots over the decades.

The latest crackdown, which may ultimately do very little to stop sex workers from plying their trade in the area, comes after a video was publicized in early April showing a daytime fight between three women on Shotwell, two of whom were believed to be sex workers.

District 9 supervisor candidate Trevor Chandler seized on the video, saying he was "incredibly disturbed at the lack of seriousness from City Hall on" the trouble caused by illegal sex work. And, Chandler said, "Shotwell neighbors have raised the alarm for years about increasing violence from sex trafficking on their street but have regularly been ignored."

Of course, Shotwell neighbors were likely happier when all this was going on a couple blocks away on Capp, as it was until early last year.

Chandler is calling for "true penalties" for both johns and pimps, but it's not at all clear that District Attorney Brooke Jenkins will seek such penalties.

Mission Station Captain Gavin McEachern admitted in a public meeting two years ago that there had been a lapse in enforcement during the pandemic that had allowed the sex trade to get out of hand on Capp Street.

"We do think there has been a hiatus of enforcement for a period of time, and we’re looking forward to changing that dynamic," McEachern said.

The police would likely have been quick to blame former DA Chesa Boudin, who pledged not to prosecute prostitution-related cases.

D9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who is termed out this year, has previously called for the legalization of sex work in the city, which would allow city officials to regulate it — and, presumably, move it somewhere less residential.

The SFPD says now that they will continue to "hold those accountable for their actions who are coming into our neighborhoods to commit crimes and disturb the peace."

Previously: The SFPD Brags About Busting Johns Seeking Sex Workers on Capp Street