To: Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors and the Santa Cruz City Council
Please find the Take Back Santa Cruz Needles Solutions Team Needles in Public Spaces (NIPS) report attached. This is a log of citizen reports of needles found in public spaces for the last 46 months. The log was created as a reference so that someone can use the data to:
Keep the County and City aware that there is an ongoing problem;
Determine if the needles found in public spaces are increasing or decreasing;
Provide data to the City and County so that “hot spot” patterns can be identified for City/County cleanup; and to
Give the community a place to log their finds.
Total NIPS Finds for Reporting Period 46
For reporting period 46 (9/9/2016-10/8/16), 252 needles found in public spaces were logged. This count includes citizen reports, community group reports and reports by City workers. 73 needles were found by citizens and community groups; the other 179 needles were found by City workers.
Significant Finds For Reporting Period 46
A sixteen-year-old boy found a needle on Water Street. (1329N)
- A needle was found in front of Gap Kids clothing store on Pacific Avenue. (1341N);
- A grandmother taking her grandbaby to Oceanview Park found a needle, along with an SSP water capsule. (1336N).
- 11 needles were found under the Zayante Creek Bridge in Felton.
Hot Spot NIPS Locations for Reporting Periods 46:
· San Lorenzo River/Levee
· Ocean Street
· Depot Park
· Arana Gulch
· Harvey West Park
The County’s Censorship of Comments Critical of the County’s Syringe Services Program Violates the First Amendment
We received numerous complaints from citizens that their comments criticizing the County Syringe Services program were “deleted” from the County of Santa Cruz’s Facebook page. However, after a resident posted a comment about a lawsuit against a San Diego public entity for its similar deletion of Facebook comments, the comments miraculously reappeared. Thus, it appears that the County had not actually deleted the comments, but had used Facebook’s “hide” function to make the comments invisible on the page.
The original post on the County’s Facebook page requested, “Ask yourself – what makes a healthy communinty? [sic] Better yet, tell us!” It is our position that the suppression of comments criticizing the County’s needle program not only constitutes a violation of the First Amendment, but also a continuing violation of the Health & Safety Code sections governing the public’s right to comment on needle exchange programs.
For a general discussion of government entities, the First Amendment, and social media see: http://www.callawyer.com/2015/
Overview of Last 46 Months
- Total Number of Needles Reported Found: 11,997
- Average Number of Needles Found Per Month: 260
- Source of needles: Again, based on the frequent presence of other items from the SSP such as water capsules, cookers, and alcohol wipes, we conclude that a significant number of needles found in public spaces likely originated from the SSP (and obviously were not returned for exchange.) However, there are other needles being found that do not match those given out by the SSP, so there are presumably other sources of discarded needles.
- Needle Sticks: We have confirmed 10 cases of people being stuck by needles (including 5 children) in the last 46 months.
Needles in the Media
9/21/16: Santa Cruz Sentinel – Discarded Needle Count Pushes 12,000: http://www.santacruzsentinel.
9/21/16: San Jose Mercury – Discarded Needle Count Pushes 12,000: http://www.mercurynews.com/
9/21/16: Ethan Bearman Blog – Ethan Explains Heroin Epidemic Week: http://blog.ethanbearman.com/
9/23/16: Santa Cruz Sentinel Letter to the Editor – Needles Make County a Safer Place: http://www.santacruzsentinel.
9/24/16: Santa Cruz Sentinel Letter to the Editor – Public Should Know County is Addressing Needles: http://www.santacruzsentinel.
9/24/16: Santa Cruz Sentinel Letter to the Editor – Congratulations on Expanded Drug Programs: http://www.santacruzsentinel.
9/26/16: Santa Cruz Sentinel Letter to the Editor – Drug Users Need Treatment for us to Feel Safe: http://www.santacruzsentinel.
- The County must operate a true 1:1 exchange to ensure that no needles from the Syringe Services Program are ending up in our public spaces. Former SSP clients whom we’ve interviewed stated that they regularly received clean needles without exchanging dirty ones. Furthermore, discarded needles are regularly found with other items from the SSP, such as sterile water capsules.
- The County must bring itself into compliance with the Health and Safety Code and the Brown Act by giving proper, timely notice and an opportunity to the public to comment on the Syringe Services Program and its biennial report. The public is currently being denied that opportunity. https://www.youtube.com/
- The County must allow the public to comment on the SSP without censorship of critical opionions.
- Consistent with its goal to reduce the transmission of disease, the County should establish a fund for needle stick victims who do not have insurance to cover their treatment.