Keep the pressure on Santa Cruz drug trade

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

This entry was posted in Crime, culture, Economy, Environment, Health, In the spirit, Local news, Opinion. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Keep the pressure on Santa Cruz drug trade

  1. Rnorse3 says:

    Don:u00a0 The folks who came to CitynCouncil last night have lots of legitimate concerns about CitynCouncil’s continuous failures.u00a0 Some of these failures includen(a) not directing police resources to real crime rather than visiblenpoverty downtown and elsewhere; (b) lack of trash pick-ups andndisposal services (for those outside); (c) the absurd defunding ofnneedle exchange and other services dealing with harm reduction aroundnneedle use; (d) the ridiculous priorities of the City Council innterms of multi-million dollar giveaways (or lend-aways) for sportsnstadiums, desal projects, etc.; (e) the medieval lack of publicn24-hour bathrooms in Santa Cruz.u00a0u00a0 And of course,nthe usual siphoning off of public outrage into do-nothingnsub-committees that disperse the activism and attempt to damp downnthe concerns without really addressing them. There a fewnthings missing from your analysis (and that of most of the folksndoing the clean-up and the heads-up at City Council).First,nDrug Prohibition makes drug sales immensely profitable (recallnalcohol prohibition).u00a0 Bust one drug dealer and another willntake her place.u00a0u00a0 It’s a way for poor people to survive inna wretched economy.u00a0 So it always is with black market stuff.u00a0nLegalize, regulate, and medicalize the situation–as is being triednin Vancouver and Europe.u00a0 Second, homelessnessnencourages someu00a0 folks to self-medicate given the grimnconditions that obtain (sleeping bans, sitting bans, NIMBY hostility,nbureaucratic indifference, the utterly inadequate social services,netc.)u00a0 Just a fact.Third lack of alternatives for thosenwho want to break drug addictions makes the attacks on drug users andnabusers simply punitive rather than rehabilitative.u00a0 Fourth,nlack of campgrounds and sleeping facilities for homeless folks (therenis shelter for less than 5% of the homeless) combined with laws thatnmake all sleeping and camping illegal encourage a general disrespectnfor the law, a lack of solidarity in fighting real crime (assaults,nthefts, etc.).u00a0 I would encourage folks to struggle tonprotect themselves against theft and not rely on the police.u00a0nThat doesn’t mean assuming that every homeless person you see in thenbushes is a threat, or raising a hue and cry to starve out or drivenout every “sketchy” person.Increasing police andnvigilanteu00a0 harassment and violence against the homelessncommunity is the wrong way to go.u00a0u00a0u00a0nnA lot of this serves to distract us from those who are engaging in theftn on a more grander scale as banks foreclose on homes, jobs are nstrategically located oversees for cheaper wages, and both political nparties play deaf, dumb, and blind as foreign wars devour tax dollars.u00a0 nNot to mention inaccessible local officials ignoring the community’s needs both of the poor nand working people to decent services and real health and safetyI would saynthis to those indoors who are ready and willing to address problems that City Councilmembers and City Staff are not:u00a0 meet with homeless people and talk withnthem.u00a0 Invite them to community meetings to learn their needsnand experiences. u00a0 Work with them to address real crime and to end the criminalization of the innocent.u00a0 nnHomeless people are four times as vulnerable as you arento violence and stamped with a label of “criminal” to beginnwith every time they sit down near a building, sleep under a bridge,nor ask for a dime after dark. nnu00a0nn

  2. Rnorse3 says:

    (Reposted to deal with run-on paragraphs and bad formatting apparently created by the disqus format.u00a0 Please eliminate the early duplicated post.) nnnDon:u00a0 The folks who came to CitynCouncil last night have lots of legitimate concerns about CitynCouncil’s continuous failures.u00a0 Some of these failures includen(a) not directing police resources to real crime rather than visiblenpoverty downtown and elsewhere; (b) lack of trash pick-ups andndisposal services (for those outside); (c) the absurd defunding ofnneedle exchange and other services dealing with harm reduction aroundnneedle use; (d) the ridiculous priorities of the City Council innterms of multi-million dollar giveaways (or lend-aways) for sportsnstadiums, desal projects, etc.; (e) the medieval lack of publicn24-hour bathrooms in Santa Cruz.u00a0u00a0 nnAnd of course,nthe usual siphoning off of public outrage into do-nothingnsub-committees that disperse the activism and attempt to damp downnthe concerns without really addressing them. nnThere a fewnthings missing from your analysis (and that of most of the folksndoing the clean-up and the heads-up at City Council).nnFirst,nDrug Prohibition makes drug sales immensely profitable (recallnalcohol prohibition).u00a0 Bust one drug dealer and another willntake her place.u00a0u00a0 It’s a way for poor people to survive inna wretched economy.u00a0 So it always is with black market stuff.u00a0nLegalize, regulate, and medicalize the situation–as is being triednin Vancouver and Europe.u00a0 nnSecond, homelessnessnencourages someu00a0 folks to self-medicate given the grimnconditions that obtain (sleeping bans, sitting bans, NIMBY hostility,nbureaucratic indifference, the utterly inadequate social services,netc.)u00a0 Just a fact.nnThird lack of alternatives for thosenwho want to break drug addictions makes the attacks on drug users andnabusers simply punitive rather than rehabilitative.u00a0 nnFourth,nlack of campgrounds and sleeping facilities for homeless folks (therenis shelter for less than 5% of the homeless) combined with laws thatnmake all sleeping and camping illegal encourage a general disrespectnfor the law, a lack of solidarity in fighting real crime (assaults,nthefts, etc.).u00a0 nnI would encourage folks to struggle tonprotect themselves against theft and not rely on the police.u00a0nThat doesn’t mean assuming that every homeless person you see in thenbushes is a threat, or raising a hue and cry to starve out or drivenout every “sketchy” person.nnnIncreasing police andnvigilanteu00a0 harassment and violence against the homelessncommunity is the wrong way to go.u00a0u00a0u00a0nnnA lot of this serves to distract us from those who are engaging in theftn on a more grander scale as banks foreclose on homes, jobs are nstrategically located oversees for cheaper wages, and both political nparties play deaf, dumb, and blind as foreign wars devour tax dollars.u00a0 nNot to mention inaccessible local officials ignoring the community’s needs both of the poor nand working people to decent services and real health and safetynnIn would saynthis to those indoors who are ready and willing to address problems thatn City Councilmembers and City Staff are not:u00a0 meet with homeless people nand talk withnthem.u00a0 Invite them to community meetings to learn their needsnand experiences. u00a0 Work with them to address real crime and to end the ncriminalization of the innocent.u00a0 nnnHomeless people are four times as vulnerable as you arento violence and stamped with a label of “criminal” to beginnwith every time they sit down near a building, sleep under a bridge,nor ask for a dime after dark. n

  3. Cbrown1389 says:

    same ole protests just different protestors???? how shallow……I will always remember Shannon Collins chopped to death in broad daylight!!!!! I will fight to keep dirty needles out of OUR children’s playgrounds!!! I will fight to keep creeps from crapping right in our rivers and streams (we have video if you care ). What have you done to make this county safe besides blow hot air? Seeing kids playing in the river mouth where up streak careless criminals pollute the water. Bottom line is we make it easy for addicts to afford their drugs here, we have created a market for the dealers, we need to STOP it!!! proof of residence for aid or leave! We can not handle all the people from all over this country, just interview some of these transients and see where they come from, we need to keep our resources for our own residences who fall on hard times, not support drug addicts.

  4. Cbrown1389 says:

    u00a0my brother has worked skid row San Francisco for over 30 years and most “homeless” want it that way, do not want rules, do not want shelter, only want to do drugs and drink. These guys just killed one of their own with a rock and another stabbed a sweet woman in broad daylight, so your poor homeless is nothing but crap! Like the dude that took a dump in the creek!!! No care for the ocean that creek runs into or the kids that play at the mouth of it. Cut your bull, it is so old. And with video now, more and more people are witnesses your true intentions and that is nothing but to hear yourself talk! This IS our water, this is our ocean, this is our parks too!!!!! We will not stop until we end this pollution!!!! I came to this town in 76, no job, slept on lighthouse field, got a job, made a life. But so many told me how to use the system like a selfish pig, I refused!!!!! it is attitudes like yours that sent my hero Jerry Garcia to an early grave……all the takers that don’t give back……missed the bus…hell, fell off the bus!

  5. Tjmagallanes says:

    Thank you Robert Norse. As the organizer of the put unity back in community walk, I would like to express that we protested nothing. We carried no signs. And we are not fighting for anything. We are raising community awareness of the issues that you have pointed out and we are WORKING, NOT Fighting for change. I find it very unprofessional of the media not to talk to the organizer of the walk.

  6. Anonymous says:

    u00a0Thanks, T.J.u00a0 nnFolks interested in discussing this issue cann call in to Free Radio Santa Cruz tomorrow night (Thursday November n29th)u00a0 6-8 PM at 427-3772 or 469-3119. u00a0 The show broadcasts at 101.3 FMn and streams atu00a0 http://tunein.com/radio/FRSC-s47254/ .u00a0 It will archive afterwards atu00a0 http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb121129.mp3.nn You can also e-mail in your comments to rnorse3@hotmail.comnnnnn

  7. SConner says:

    Did you read the article you cited, Mr. Miller?u00a0I did and I didn’t see the word “protest” anywhere.nCalling this walk a protest is lazy and inaccurate. Instead of imaginingu00a0why people decided to walk along the tracks to the City Council meeting, maybe you should go speak to some of the people involved.nOr, better yet, get out from behind your and walk around down there for yourself. There would be very little left to the imagination.

  8. Brent says:

    The San Lorenzo River is polluted because of massive septic system breaches by the hundreds all the way up to and past Boulder Creek. u00a0We’ve known this for decades. u00a0If folks are unhappy with poo-poo then we need ample places for folks to do their do. u00a0Where ARE people who live outside for whatever reason to go? u00a0Public restrooms, which are very few are only open during daylight hours. u00a0Its easy to attack homeless from this distance and make them wrong for everything but what is really required is a little more compassion and community engagement.

  9. Frank Martin says:

    A lot of this serves to distract us from those who are engaging in theftn on a more grander scale as banks foreclose on homes, jobs are nstrategically located oversees for cheaper wages, and both political nparties play deaf, dumb, and blind as foreign wars devour tax dollars.u00a0 nNot to mention inaccessible local officials ignoring the community’s needs both of the poor nand working people to decent services and real health and safetynnneducational toddler toysnnnnnhttp://www.woodentoddlertoys.comnnnu00a0

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