Seattle has been the site of heavy police reform, and many progressive actions regarding how criminal justice is approached. In recent news, Seattle has taken a unique approach to drug crimes. While, overall, Washington State law still operates under the draconic standard of VUCSA, Seattle is aiming to focus more on the issue of addiction and dependency on drugs, through a controversial program. In short, Seattle may soon see a rise in what most are calling "safe drug sites."
Safe Drug Sites
Seattle's initiative for safe drug sites is being spearheaded by a group called VOCAL. The group suggests that the site would operate somewhat like a clinic, users come in and use the drug they are addicted to in a clean environment under proper medical supervision, in order to save anyone who may overdose. These sites would also feature counselors who can connect users to treatment programs, housing, or other services they may need.the purpose is to prevent unnecessary jail time for people who are addicted to a substance. The rationale behind this way of thinking is that if an addict goes to prison, they will simply get out of prison and continue the same pattern of behavior. Time away from regular use of hard drugs can only increase the risk of overdose.
Drug use can be common in low-income areas, as well as with individuals without homes to return to. Safe drug sites will allow users to have a place to use, that offers the benefit of other potential and necessary services that they may be in need of. Such an environment would also keep users out of the public domain, and could potentially prevent individuals under the influence of drugs from engaging the public and causing a harmful disturbance, all the while slowly steering addicts on the path to sobriety. One could even hypothesize that such a movement could be a potential deterrent for petty crimes. Many small criminal acts are fueled by a need to fulfill drug addiction, so with what is essentially a use and rehabilitation spot readily available for addicts, there may be a potential drop in property crime as well.
Possible Support From SPD
While Seattle's sheriff has not come out directly in support of this program, he has had some positive words to say about it. Sheriff Urquhart has not officially endorsed the notion of a safe drug space, but he has put forward statements that suggest that if these sites are run with an emphasis on education and recovery, the "benefits [would] outweigh the drawbacks." In a later event a drug panel he went on to say that individuals making use of a safe drug site would not face arrest.
Although the safe drug site program is controversial, in the long run, it may help addicts come to terms with their addiction and get the help they need.