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. crimere­ or visit the de­part­ment’s Face­book page and se­lect the “sub­mit a tip” op­tion.

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