Tag Archives: King County Prosecutor’s Office

Lenient drug use policies and lax enforcement in the Pacific Northwest are endangering children

needles in snohomish county herald net photo

Needle cleanup in Snohomish County, Washington/Herald Net photo

In February, Snohomish County (north of King County – Seattle area) announced that drug users would get a pass if they’re busted with less than 2 grams of any drug. Apparently the county doesn’t have enough prosecutors to take on these cases.

Just before Snohomish County announced this, the King County Prosecutor’s Office announced that they were cutting loose about 1,500 misdemeanor cases from 2017 due to staffing shortages. An anonymous police officer in King County — going under the Reddit handle of “BummedCop” — noted that charges ranging from criminal trespass to theft, vehicle prowls, and possession of stolen property would be dismissed.

Until recently, Snohomish County allowed drug consumption sites at supervised drug facilities. In March, the county council approved an ordinance that permanently bans drug consumption sites. From MyNorthwest.com:

“The permanent ban follows a six-month moratorium on drug consumption sites that county officials passed in September 2017. The council used the time to codify a permanent ban.

“We want to get out ahead of the game and make sure we’re not having these safe injection sites anywhere near Snohomish County,” Councilmember Nate Nehring said in September.”

Meanwhile in King County they are working on providing “safe injection sites” for drug users. After studying the issue for almost a year and a half, county and city officials believe that the need for these sites exists yet have not formally decided on any locations. The task force does suggest six different options ranging from $350,000 to $5 million to start with close to $4 million in annual costs.

Seattle has also considered “safe consumption sites” where people can inject and smoke illegal drugs under medical supervision.

The drug use is so rampant in Snohomish County that at the end of 2017, over ONE MILLION used syringes were collected during the previous six months by a Snohomish County needle exchange program. From Herald Net:

Strayneedles have become a symptom and a symbol of the nationwide opioid crisis. Recovering addicts spent days cleaning nine tons of garbage and thousands of heroin needles from their former home, a patch of woods behind a Home Depot south of Everett.

Robert Smiley stayed in the camp years ago, when he abused alcohol and smoked crack. He dumped a bucket of 7,624 needles onto a tarp Monday, to show how many carpeted the ground days ago.

“All I know is this doesn’t need to be your neighborhood anymore,” Smiley said to an audience of volunteers, as they celebrated the progress of their cleanup at a barbecue Monday.

Smiley, 53, leads the Hand Up Project, a nonprofit that seeks to get people off the streets, into detox and into sober housing. Many of the volunteers are recovering addicts who lived in the camp in the past. Now they want to make things right, in a neighborhood plagued by drugs and related crime.

The city of Everett (in Snohomish County) provides free taxpayer-funded needle clean-up kits to Snohomish County residents and business owners so they can clean up needles found in the community. The kits include a sharps container, puncture proof gloves, safety glasses, tongs, hand sanitizer and simple instructions for safe collection.

And what is the result of lax drug-use policies and non-enforcement? Children are routinely encountering needles in parks/playgrounds/streets throughout Snohomish and King counties.

Last week a toddler was pricked by a dirty needle in an Everett playground.  MyNorthwest.com reports that the babysitter, Dana Smith, heard a scream. “The way he was screaming, he’s never screamed like that,” Smith said. “It was so scary and he was hysterical.”

The babysitter looked through the mulch and found a needle that appeared to be half used and filled with a brown substance. After safely retrieving it, she took the boy to the hospital.

Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park has become notorious for drug use. There are so many instances of children finding needles that a mom created a “See a Needle” web site to teach parents/kids/teachers what to do if they encounter needles.

In downtown Seattle, a mom took her three-year-old to see the Hello Kitty exhibit at the Experience Music Project (EMP). She turned her back for a second and the child had a syringe in her hand.

Syringes have been found in Les Grove Park in Auburn (King County), which has become a haven for homeless and drugs. A mom says she’s found dozens of used needles inside the park, including one that was just finger deep in a sandbox.

A public path near a Seattle elementary school had to be closed due to people repeatedly finding needles there. The public path is used by people to camp there and inject drugs. According to an elementary school PTA member, along with finding used needles, condoms and human waste is also a common site.

Needles are also prevalent on the east side of King County. Bothell Police tweeted about what to do when you encounter a needle in a park. Their most recent tweet about needles on April 24:

Heading to a park/playground to enjoy the sun? Unfortunately that means some kids may come across discarded needles. What should you do if you see a discarded needle or drug paraphernalia? Thanks to Daisy’s wonderful artwork, we have an idea. – Don’t Touch – Mark it – Call 911.”

I understand that the opioid crisis is a contributing factor to children finding needles. King County does as well and in January they filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the company behind the painkiller OxyContin, blaming the company of fueling the opioid epidemic there.  The suit also alleges “the opioid epidemic has contributed significantly to the homelessness crisis in King County.”

More about the lawsuit from KIRO TV:

The lawsuit descries describes deplorable conditions in parks, including syringes found daily this summer on a children’s play area at a park in White Center, used needles daily on ball fields, and homeless encampments filled with human waste that destroyed years of environmental restoration work.

The court filing provides the most vivid details released to the public about the extent of the problem. 

But even if King County wins the suit, a financial gain from the lawsuit is likely years away – and it’s not clear how county officials can adequately address the exploding problem of homelessness, biohazardous waste and syringes that often create a public safety risk. 

The lawsuit states that tens of thousands of needles still litter local parks, putting staff at risk and requiring them to provide reduced services to park-goers to avoid the chance of injury. Sheriff’s deputies and Metro employees also are repeatedly exposed to dangers, and Metro has collected more than 650 pounds of the roughly pen-size needles since 2013.”

The Pacific Northwest/Seattle area has been trying to address the opioid and homeless crisis for many, many years. And they have spent millions and millions of dollars.

Yet it is NEVER enough taxpayer dollars.

When you allow the homeless and junkies to freely shoot up with no criminal consequences you end up with discarded needles. Needles that become a public safety issue.

What do you want to bet another tax will be the next solution?

DCG