Take Back Santa Cruz members and community supporters march along rail tracks, picking up trash and drug paraphernalia along the way, to Santa Cruz City Council meeting Tuesday/Dan Coyro, Sentinel photo
Why are people continuing to complain about feeling unsafe, and about homeless camps and trash along beaches and in wooded areas?
It’s not as if these complaints are anything new, although the circumstances, locations and even the faces of protesters change.
In the latest protest, Take Back Santa Cruz joined up with some local men who had posted a video about their efforts to clean up local surfing beaches. They took their complaints, along with accumulated garbage and drug paraphernalia, to the Santa Cruz City Council Tuesday.
Oh, and by the way, did we mention that the latest outcries again center on the real subculture that infects Santa Cruz: drug abusers and dealers.Because if you look back at other high-profile public safety protests — Pogonip and homeless encampments — the common denominator is almost always … drugs.
Look at the daily crime report posted online and in print by the Sentinel and you’ll easily make the connection to most of the crime and criminal elements in our county: if it’s not drugs such as methamphetamines and heroin, then it’s the other popular drug abuse of choice, alcohol. Day after day, month after month, year after year.
Burglaries and violence in the community? Usually connected to drug abuse.
Many homeless in our community aren’t using drugs or alcohol, but many are. But it’s not just transients and scruffy young men with furtive looks and small plastic baggies in backpacks selling and using drugs and leaving behind needles and garbage.
Santa Cruz with its nationally recognized tolerance for lifestyles outside the mainstream and its healthy network of services to help people in need, is often blamed for attracting the drug trade and turning a blind eye toward the mess abusers and dealers leave behind. The truth, however, is the city has changed its stance significantly in recent years.
Recent city councils have worked to make the city safer and less of a magnet to the dispossessed and the dysfunctional. Homeless camps have been raided and taken down. Take Back Santa Cruz, which has played a powerful role in changing attitudes and policies in the city, will probably continue to exert an influence on how social and criminal behaviors are dealt with. Take Back co-founder Pamela Comstock was elected to the Santa Cruz council earlier this month and will join a majority that understands the importance of cleaning up the city.
But the issue of drug abuse in the local community goes a lot further than a city council, or concerned citizens. The facts are rather grim even when it comes to the legal system, since overflowing jails and prisons can’t house the seemingly never-diminishing drug and alcohol addicts and abusers who cause so much of the daily woes in our community. Treatment facilities are hard pressed to keep enough funding to provide incarceration alternatives.
That’s not to say our community should just give up and give in. Local electeds can continue to put the pressure on and support increased policing and security to make the drug trade unwelcome here.
A Santa Cruz council committee on public safety will meet Dec. 17 to discuss the drug problems, issues with homelessness camps and other crime related topics.
And most importantly of all, law abiding residents of Santa Cruz County need to become more engaged in the fight against crime and less tolerant of drug use and abuse.
Out of sight, out of mind has never worked.
For a fascinating examination of how the marijuana culture has transformed a region, and what it means to the worldwide drug trade, check out this link to New York magazine’s report, “Truce on Drugs.”
The above post is the Santa Cruz Sentinel Editorial for Nov. 29, 2012