‘Poop Patrol’ Aims To Combat The Astounding Amount Of Human Feces On San Francisco Streets

Published April 22, 2019
Updated August 20, 2019

San Francisco has deployed a "poop patrol" to clean up the growing amount of feces on its sidewalks thanks to the homelessness epidemic.

San Francisco Poop Patrol

David McNew/Getty ImagesSan Francisco’s growing number of homeless people has caused a problem with public defectation.

Number two is becoming San Francisco’s number one problem. The city has been experiencing a growing problem of public pooping on its streets by the local homeless population and it’s now becoming a major public health concern.

According to Forbes, a non-profit watchdog organization in San Francisco called Open The Books has been closely monitoring the state of the city’s “brownout” epidemic.

Based on data from the San Francisco Department of Public Works, the organization recently came out with an interactive map that shows every public defecation report that has come into the city’s 311 hotline since 2011 and how the incidents are distributed across the city’s neighborhoods.

San Francisco Poop Patrol Map

Open The BooksA map showing locations of San Francisco’s public defecation reports, with a brown dot for each incident.

Even at a glance, the map is overwhelming. Brown mapping pins point to the exact street location of every pile of poop reported. The city is completely covered with these pins, making it quite difficult to recognize the neighborhoods and street signs without an extremely zoomed-in view of the map.

The organization also released an accompanying graphic that charts the yearly progression of San Francisco’s public defecation reports:

One look at the chart and it’s clear that there has been a steady and marked increase in reports complaining about poop on the streets in recent years. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, the total amount of reports jumped from 20,668 to 28,084 cases.

The data that is available over the last decade shows that San Francisco’s public poop problem is not a new occurrence, but rather a steady pile-up that has long been ignored.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, concerned citizens called into the city’s 311 hotline to report poop as many as 14,597 times between January and August 2018 alone. That amounts to roughly 65 calls about poop every day.

It is worth noting that the data that the city possesses on poop reports only indicate incidents that were actually reported, which means the true number of incidents is likely higher.

The amount of poop on San Francisco streets has gotten so bad that, in 2018, the city finally decided to do something about it. Under the direction of the Public Works Department, San Francisco launched a specialized clean-up unit, known to some as the “poop patrol,” in an effort to keep the city’s streets clean and prevent unwanted diseases from spreading.

As the name of the unit suggests, cleaning workers within the unit are tasked with the unfortunate duty to spot and clean up fecal matter found on the streets. The team is equipped with facial masks and other protective gear and carry large sprays of disinfectant to wash away any leftover poop from the sidewalks.

“I’ve been talking to the Department of Public Works director on a regular basis, and I’m like, ‘What are we going to do about the poop?'” San Francisco Mayor London Breed told SF Chronicle when the poop patrol was first launched.

The mayor added that not all of the poop that has been cleaned up came from people; some of the fecal matter that the poop patrol found also came from irresponsible dog owners.

Still, it does not change the fact that one of the wealthiest cities in the country is covered in poop. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward were ranked among the two Northern California metro cities that boast the best economies in the US, thanks to its burgeoning tech industry that is centralized in Silicon Valley.

Homeless Person On Sidewalk

Viviane Moos/CORBIS/Corbi/Getty ImagesThere are an estimated 7,500 homeless people on the streets of San Francisco.

This growth in the economy does not come without setbacks, however. The influx of young tech entrepreneurs into Silicon Valley has contributed to the city’s skyrocketing rent prices, which has made the Bay Area one of the most expensive regions in the country, more so than even New York City.

The extremely high rent costs have been the driving force behind the increase in San Francisco’s homeless population, as more and more people simply cannot afford to pay for a decent place to sleep, so they are forced to live out on the streets.

Experts estimate that San Francisco’s homeless population sits at about 7,500 today. If more people are living on the streets, that means more people out there are in need of basic facilities like bathrooms. But the homeless population has grown so large that there is not a sufficient amount of shelters or public facilities to accommodate all of them.

But while the city deals with the wider issue of homelessness, San Francisco’s poop patrol will be on duty.

After this look at San Francisco’s “poop patrol,” revisit 1967’s “Summer of Love” in the Bay Area and beyond. Then see even more of what San Francisco was like in the 1960s.

Natasha Ishak
A former staff writer for All That's Interesting, Natasha Ishak holds a Master's in journalism from Emerson College and her work has appeared in VICE, Insider, Vox, and Harvard's Nieman Lab.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
Cite This Article
Ishak, Natasha. "‘Poop Patrol’ Aims To Combat The Astounding Amount Of Human Feces On San Francisco Streets." AllThatsInteresting.com, April 22, 2019, https://allthatsinteresting.com/san-francisco-poop-patrol. Accessed April 18, 2024.