Is drug use in El Centro rising?
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Q Is the city of El Centro facing a drug outbreak? Almost every day, on several social media pages, someone posts a photo of a used needle left behind at parks, parking lots, sidewalks, in front of homes, apartment complexes, businesses, schools and churches. It seems like there is an increase in drug addiction. What is the city doing about it? And what do we do with those needles? We can’t just leave them lying around where a child might pick up and infect him or herself with something. – Clean up our Streets, El Centro
AEl Centro Police Department Cmdr. Robert Sawyer gave us a lot of information, with some valid points as to drugs and our society today.
At the forefront is socially, at least in California, drugs are being more commonly accepted in society he said. From the legalization of marijuana to the reduction of felony charges to misdemeanors for the possession of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, California voters have made it clear at the ballot box with the passing of Propositions 36, 47 and 215 they desire to ease the criminal penalties associated with drug possession - possession with the intent to sell still remains a felony.
The change in laws brought on by a majority vote of the citizens in California has made it much more difficult to use criminal sanctions as a deterrent and equally as difficult to keep these individuals incarcerated for any length of time he said. As a result, a portion of the individuals that would have previously been subject to incarceration have now been returned to the streets. But that does not necessarily equate to an epidemic in drug related crimes in El Centro.
“Between Jan. 1 and this past Monday, our officers have handled 183 incidents related to drug crimes, ranging from possession of drug paraphernalia to possession of methamphetamine for sale – and everything in between,” he said. “During the same period in 2016, our officers handled 174 incidents and 182 incidents in the same period for 2015.”
These statistics show drug related crimes in El Centro have remained a constant problem with no significant spike. Possession of drug paraphernalia, including the needles mentioned above remains a misdemeanor.
As far as handling used needles, for health and safety reasons should readers come across a needle within the city limits, they can call the police department and they will respond, collect the needle and safely dispose of it.
Please be patient, we will respond as our limited resources allow he said. In some cases, if the department is experiencing a high volume of calls, response may be delayed several hours.
“If the public has information on drug activity in their neighborhoods, we encourage them to report it to us so we can take the appropriate action,” he said.
Residents can call the department’s main line at 760-352-2111 and select the dispatch option, submit an anonymous tip at www. crimereports.com or visit the department’s Facebook page and select the “submit a tip” option.