Just last week a child with the Twin Lakes Junior Guards (a state-run program) was stuck by a needle at Black’s Beach. Now we have learned that in just the first week of this long-time summer program, Santa Cruz Junior Guards (a city-run program) found needles at Cowell Beach on two separate occasions.
The Recreation Supervisor for the City of Santa Cruz’s Parks and Recreation Department sent the following email to the parents of Junior Guard Parents:
“Dear Junior Guard Parents,
I wanted to bring to your attention a very unfortunate issue that has arisen during the first week of Junior Guards. Junior Guards identified, on two separate occasions, used syringes on the beach during their activities. In both cases, staff were immediately notified and sprang into action, establishing a perimeter around the syringe to ensure no Junior Guards made contact with the syringes. Staff followed established protocols for safe removal of the syringes in both cases.
I am very sorry this happened and feel terrible for the children that identified the syringes. I understand this is troubling news to hear as parents. The safety of your children is our absolute top priority as a program, department and City. While we are grateful that the procedures put in place helped ensure no children were injured, we are going to take extra precautions moving forward this summer. In addition to the safety efforts already in place, we are going to perform daily sifting in an expanded area on Cowell Beach, conduct additional hand cleaning, and increase the number of police and park ranger patrols. We will also have our Junior Guard staff inspect the beach prior to allowing any junior guards onto the area.
In regards to the broader issue of illegal drug activity in our community, the City and County have partnered over the past few years to try to eradicate the problem of spent syringes being found in public. This includes park staff picking up needles, the needle exchange program limiting the number of needles provided to drug users ⇐ (¹TBSC disputes that statement – see below for stats, we do not have an “exchange” we have Syringe Services) and the City and County driving more funding toward drug and alcohol treatment. Progress is coming slowly. Nevertheless, the City is committed to improving the conditions of the community.
Again, I am very sorry that this took place on our lovely beach and in the presence of children. We do not take this incident lightly and will do all we can to make the Junior Guard experience safe and fun for your children. Thank you for choosing Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation programming, and please feel free to contact me directly if you have any additional concerns.”
When Harm Reduction becomes Harm Increase for the general public AND our environment
Junior Guards has been around for generations, with many earlier participants now sending their own kids to this great program. It is a sad testament to the problem of drug addiction and prolific drug abuse in our community AND a continued failure on our leadership to address. When children and their parents are not able to enjoy and take part in a time honored Santa Cruz tradition knowing that finding used drug needles in public spaces has become the new normal for Santa Cruz, it is time to say ENOUGH. There is no acceptable level of risk to ourselves or our children. Too many needles are being inappropriately discarded in public spaces throughout our community. It is the county’s and city’s responsibility to do what it can to help ensure the safety of our residents and visitors — controlling, tracking and limiting needle distribution will reduce the health risks to our community.
We need to return to balance where addicts are getting help, but we can feel safe knowing our kids won’t find needles everywhere and that our doors won’t be kicked in to fuel heroin-induced thefts.
¹(12 months) Syringes Dispensed March 2014 – March 2015 = 201,348
2014 Figures compared to Santa Clara County: