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Fewer syringes found in Poulsbo parks
POULSBO — It’s been nearly two months since Mayor Becky Erickson introduced her plan to combat the area’s heroin problem.
“It appears to be working. Our needle collections are not nearly what they have been in the past,” Erickson said.
“The thing that makes me feel optimistic about this [is]there is a decrease in this activity. The word is getting out that Poulsbo is not a good place to do this kind of stuff.”
Police Chief Alan Townsend confirmed that fewer syringes are showing up on Poulsbo streets, but the problem is still present.
“Needles seem to be way down,” he said. “We have had some recent complaints about needles in Raab Park, and on trails leading from Raab Park to 10th Street. Also, in Forest Rock Park.
“We still also occasionally encounter needles when we find homeless camps in the woods. So they are still out there, but the number of incidents seem to be on the decline.”
The city took up a mission against heroin after Townsend presented a large container full of discarded, dirty needles found throughout the city at a November council meeting, and stressed the severity of the issue. Heroin use and related crimes have steadily risen over the past few years in Kitsap and the state.
Before the month was out, the mayor produced a four-tiered plan to tackle the problem, at home.
Public Works, police, the mayor, and the community were each given responsibilities. Among the more popularly discussed actions were the installation of cameras in public parks, increased bicycle patrols, the formation of a special benefit district to fund law enforcement, and a city email address — firstname.lastname@example.org — for residents to send cell phone pictures of suspicious activity.
What has been done
The city has begun a database for where needles are collected. It is currently logging all locations where needles are found. The database will follow once enough data is gathered. The city has also placed sharps containers in public restrooms for the safe disposal of used syringes.
Cameras have already been installed in various public parks in Poulsbo, though the mayor is tightlipped about where they have been placed.
“In order to have good enforcement, some of this will have to be held back a bit so the bad guys won’t know,” Erickson said. “But they are up. We’ve installed more than several.”
Erickson did say that the cameras are similar to the hunting variety with motion detectors. Signs are posted in parks where cameras are placed.
Erickson has drafted legislation that has been sent to Olympia lawmakers, proposing the formation of a public safety benefit district. The legislation would allow the city to set a tax to fund public safety services such as police, jail and court costs.
“It would be one-tenth of 1 percent,” Erickson said, noting that voters will ultimately have to approve the tax.
“It’s targeted on a problem that should go away,” she said. “The benefit district goes away in five years.”
Erickson expects the legislation to take a couple years to pass through Olympia.
Three community groups have already been formed. The groups — Forest Rock Hills, Ridgewood, and 9th Avenue — watch their neighborhoods, specifically parks.
What needs to be done
The city is reaching out to residents of 11th Avenue to form a fourth community group.
So far, no cell phone photos have been sent to email@example.com.
Because of winter weather, increased bike patrols have not been fully implemented.
“We actually have had some intermittent bike patrols out and about, including some parks,” Townsend said. “But not to the level we want.”
Once a new officer joins the force in February, police will break out the bikes more often.
“When staffing is back to normal, we have several officers trained to use police bikes that carry them on the back of their cars,” Townsend said. “They will randomly ride based upon call volume, complaints, etc.”
Education is also on Erickson’s to-do list. She would like to increased drug education in local schools.
“I want to work more on the educational piece in schools so people understand the pitfalls of this behavior and to make sure our kids are safe,” she said.
Three community watch meetings are planned for neighborhoods in Poulsbo. All meetings will be held in the courtroom at Poulsbo City Hall.
— Forest Rock: Jan. 21, 7 p.m.
— Ridgewood: Jan. 25, 7 p.m.
— 9th Avenue: Jan. 28, 7 p.m.