EDITORIALS

Ideologues Blind to Impacts of “Safe” Injection Sites

Vancouver Police Officer Makes Arrest – Photo JGJ

There’s a problem with ideologues.

They don’t like to take reality into consideration.

In reality, the City of Winnipeg is in an unprecedented drug & crime crisis.

This is where the ideologues enter the conversation.

They pitch safe injection sites as part of the solution.

They say safe injection sites;

Debbi Teplitz-Dobler – Twitter
  • reduce risks of overdose & save lives
  • reduce the spread of disease
  • connect people to the system
  • provide a safe & secure location for people to consume
  • reduces costs associated with the health care system

In truth, the question regarding the benefits or harm caused by safe inject sites is very much open to debate.

Those in opposition say safe injection sites;

  • enable, aid or abet addicts in the use of illegal, dangerous drugs
  • create harm to the surrounding community in terms of increased violence and property crime
  • perpetuate the addiction for those resistant to intervention
  • provide for no lawful authority or consequences for those resistant or unwilling to access treatment
  • do little to break or interrupt the cycle of addiction & crime
  • create potential liability for the state

The enabling question is an important one.

Enabling, Aiding or Abetting
Intervention – A&E

Would you let your drug-addicted son or daughter shoot their drugs in the basement of your home?

I know I wouldn’t.

If you would allow this behaviour, I respectfully suggest you should watch an episode of Intervention and familiarize yourself with the role the codependent person plays in the relationship with the addict.

It’s the codependent person that helps facilitate the addiction.

Simply put, I wouldn’t participate in killing my child because that’s precisely what the codependent (enabling) person in the relationship with the addict does.

They aid, abet or enable the addict all the way down the dark path.

I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it.

Now, you have to ask yourself, if you wouldn’t enable, aid or abet your child down that path, why would you support the concept for someone else’s child or loved one?

We know people who are addicted to dangerous drugs end up dead if they don’t get treatment, end of story.

Harm to the Community
Seattle is Dying

One of the most informative things I’ve seen this year is the 60-minute mini-documentary called Seattle is Dying.

I’ve mentioned it a couple of times now, so forgive me, but it just keeps becoming more and more relevant.

The story examines the destructive power of addiction, social decline, pubic disorder, politics, the marginalization of crime and the demise of law enforcement.

Most pertinent in the conversation are the statics shared by Scott Lindsay, an attorney and public safety advisor for former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.

Lindsay compiled a list of 100 repeat criminal offenders in Seattle and reported the following statistics;

Of the top 100 offenders on the list;

The fact that this system could go on with, in effect a 100% failure rate, for so long without anybody raising questions, without City Council hosting hearings, without any action being taken, is something that’s hard for me to explain.”

  • 100% suffered from a substance abuse disorder
  • 100% of people on the list were homeless
  • the top 100 subjects collectively amassed over 3,600 criminal cases for which they did little or no jail time
  • the subjects averaged 36 criminal cases and 7 arrests within the last year
  • less than 50% had court-ordered mental health evaluations
  • one subject had 72 criminal cases since the year 2000
  • one subject had 68 criminal cases since the year 2002
  • one subject had 54 criminal cases since 2016

After compiling the data, Lindsay lamented;

“The fact that this system could go on with, in effect a 100% failure rate, for so long without anybody raising questions, without City Council hosting hearings, without any action being taken, is something that’s hard for me to explain.”

I can assure you, the Seattle experience has many similarities to the Winnipeg experience.

What about other Canadian cities that have safe injection sites?

The City of Calgary offers us significant insight…

A January report revealed a 250-metre sector surrounding the Calgary safe injection site has become a hot zone for drug, violence and property crimes.

2018 statistics analyzed from the hot zone tell the story;

  • 276% increase in drug-related calls
  • 29% increase in overall calls compared to the 3-year average
  • 50% increase in violent crime
  • 60% increase in break & enters
  • 63% increase in vehicle crime
Debbi Teplitz-Dobler – Twitter II

During the months of April – June, there were 883 calls to police in the noted zone.

The calls included;

  • suspicious persons
  • trespassers
  • violent crimes
  • property crimes
  • drug-related crimes

Area residents reported a dramatic increase in discarded syringes and other drug-related paraphernalia in the area while business owners found it necessary to ban drug users from entering their stores.

One shop owner called 911 – 599 times in a 19 month period – only 8 of these calls resulted in some form of prosecution.

Does any of this sound familiar?

The social decline, public disorder, the marginalization of crime and the demise of law enforcement…

Arrest > Intervention > Recovery

The problem with hardcore drug addiction is that the user can no longer function in an orderly world. Things like healthy family relationships, diet, exercise and employment all become abstract considerations in the toxic haze.

Rejeanne Caron – Police Officer – CPC Candidate – Twitter

The only thing that matters is the next high.

People who suffer from these addictions inevitably have to resort to crime in order to continue to fuel their drug dependency.

This is where harm to the community comes into play – the violence, the property crime, the drug crimes, the loss of public safety & security.

It’s a horrible, vicious cycle.

An arrest is often an important part of the intervention and recovery process.

You will note several of the addicts featured in the Seattle is Dying documentary credited their arrest with saving their lives. I’ve arrested many people in the cycle of addiction who’ve expressed the identical sentiments.

Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth has stressed we can’t arrest our way out of the problem. Mayor Brian Bowman has echoed his comments.

“Police need to enforce the laws and put the emphasis back on crime reduction, public order, and safety.”

I say arrests are precisely the catalysts we need to start having an impact on our crime and drug crisis. Police have to get back to their core function and leave the social work to the social workers.

Police need to enforce the laws and put the emphasis back on crime reduction, public order, and public safety.

The criminal justice system has to recalibrate and start taking their responsibility to protect the community from serial, habitual offenders seriously.

There must be consequences for unrepentant repeat offenders, even if drug addiction is the primary cause of the offending behaviour. We can no longer allow drug addiction to be used as an excuse in an argument for a reduced sentence.

There has to be a holistic approach for offenders who are motivated and willing to change and conversely, serious consequences for those who are not. We need to help the offenders we can salvage and incarcerate the ones who refuse salvation.

Its called law and order.

The Arrest, Intervention, Holistic Approach
The Arrest, Intervention, Holistic Approach

We’ve seen a few innovations in criminal justice in Manitoba this year.

The Province recently announced an FASD court to address the special needs and challenges people with FASD face when they find themselves involved in the criminal justice system.

It seems it might make sense to establish an addictions court to address the special needs and challenges that people with addiction face.

After all, we are in a crisis here.

Upon arrest, offenders whose crime is motivated by addiction will be offered an option if, and only if, they’re willing to participate in an intervention.

There will be two distinct choices – the holistic approach (intervention) or the public safety approach (incarceration).

If you choose the holistic approach you’ll participate in the comprehensive recovery & rehabilitation program illustrated in the organizational chart.

(You should note police play a minor role in the holistic approach as much of the responsibility for the program lands on social services, where it naturally belongs.)

If you reject the holistic approach you’ll face incarceration.

The consequences of rejection and continuous addiction-related criminal offending should be serious and incremental.

Serial Killer Shawn Lamb – Police Handout

We should no longer let addicted criminal offenders amass literally hundreds of criminal convictions with very little consequences.

Remember serial killer Sean Lamb, the man convicted of killing two Winnipeg women and suspected in the death of a third. Lamb managed to amass over 109 criminal convictions before graduating into the elite category of multiple murderer.

Lamb’s crimes were driven by his addiction to crack cocaine.

I’m going to suggest habitual, unrepentant, repeat offenders like Lamb should be treated much differently by our criminal justice system.

In Lamb’s case, the consequences of an impudent justice system were devastating to three families in our community.

If you do the analysis, you’ll see the arguments for and against safe injection sites are fully addressed with the arrest, intervention, holistic approach.

There’s a problem with ideologues.


Editor’s Note:

As our election approaches, it’s important to know the position of the political candidates;

PC Party – Brian Pallister – opposed to safe injection sites

NDP – Wab Kinew – supports safe injection sites

Liberal Party – Dougald Lamont – assumed to be in favor as the LPC supports safe injection sites

Green Party – James Beddome – assumed to be in favor as GPC supports safe injection sites

City of Winnipeg – Mayor Brian Bowman – supports safe injection sites


Note:

The Arrest, Intervention, Holistic approach is a conceptual solution that could significantly morph in terms of size and scope.


Footnote:

In the interests of full disclosure, I did find a report submitted by Nathan R. Chaffetz that was critical of the mini-documentary – Seattle is Dying.

(Chaffetz is an experienced journalist, media strategist, and writer.)

His piece was called, “7 Fake News Tricks in KOMO’s Seattle is Dying.”

Ironically, I agree with the point he makes on issue #5 – The Thin Blue Line where he says;

“While I believe the anecdotes from cops speak to legitimate concerns of rank and file officers, I don’t believe their insights offer much value in diagnosing the homelessness crisis. They know how to police. They likely don’t know how to solve systemic homelessness, which is more related to affordability.”

His point is consistent with my position that police are not social workers and need to get out of social work.

I’ll leave it up to the reader to draw whatever conclusions you might from his article.

3 Comments

  1. Folks like Macker fail to place any accountability on the offender (drug user/criminal). Instead, they blame the government. Typical.

  2. You don’t even have the name correct. They are called supervised injection sites. These drugs are never safe. Using statistics to support the enforcement mentality is no different than those that deny it has a role to play. You need look no farther than the stated police positions on legal cannibis and the misleading to down right lies many of them were/are. Drug abuse is the end result of an enforcement mentality. Closing mental hospitals, lack of adequate healthcare, erosion of incomes for every year for over 40 years have caused problems that the force mentality will only make worse. If police can’t even get control over the regular bandit raids on Manitoba liquor stores, I doubt their role of “enfocement” will help the health/social problems. As usual in articles like this you fail to mention the fact that in the bigger picture, the damage/social costs of alcohol is so large that statistically, the cost of all other drug abuse is statistically insignificant. How about going after the big problem and check people leaving the bars every night.

  3. I wasn’t sure about these one way or they other. Then we took a trip this summer back to visit Ottawa where we’d lived for a number of years. We stayed in a hotel near Rideau street by the Byward market. Now when we lived there 10 years ago the stretch east of Byward always had a few rough types here and there but I’d mentioned to my wife that it seemed way worse now and like we were literally waking down north Main Street of Winnipeg on a warm Friday night.

    It was the next night driving back that we saw it. It was one of Ottawa’s safe injection sites. Now I’ve had to take guys down to Henry and Martha here in Winnipeg and it can be a sight at times but what I saw here I’ve never seen in my life. I honestly can’t describe the scene in a way to do it justice. Cops and security into it with high users at one corner. Bodies sprawled on the sidewalk on either side, like many bodies. Others laying tweaked out against the building while the rest roamed like zombies. This was where it was all coming from. Like a hive where from they spread out into the surrounding area. It was sad, scary, disgusting and it got me off the fence about safe injection sites. No way!

    If Wab wants one he can build it in his back yard. Ottawa apparently has had three for years now and it’s solved nothing but to concentrate the problem onto the communities they are in. Oh and not everyone was using IN the injection sight. Some were shooting up a few blocks away on Rideau still. No thanks.

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