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This might be a fun and important debate. Reader RW checks in with some thoughts:

What I don’t believe is that I disagree with YOU – a real first!!!

Giving needles to addicts is dirty business and my community doesn’t welcome the program here. Been there, done that, and didn’t like it. If Sanders and the Council want to restart it, those with a death wish should visit their offices to get their equipment.

How about that? Needle-exchange on the 11th-floor of City Hall!

If you haven’t read it, you should check out this report from SANDAG on the needle-exchange program. Turns out Johns Hopkins University researchers were out here helping SANDAG study the program’s effectiveness too. The agency tracked more than 100 of the people who came to exchange needles and surveyed them. The data seems to prove that there’s more going on than just “enabling” drug users.

The needle-exchange program was functioning downtown and in North Park. The crime statistics in downtown did go up, but surveyors said it wasn’t clear that was due to the needle-exchange program.

As for North Park, key passage:

While the number of crime cases and arrests documented by the SDPD did not increase a disproportionate amount after February 14, 2003 (when the North Park site began operating), the number of calls for service and citations in the one-third mile radius around the site did increase. The increase in calls for service is indicative of increased community concern from residents in this area.

They’re saying that the program actually made neighbors more alert and sensitive and more likely to call in complaints, even though there may not actually have been more crime occurring. (Inner dialogue: Isn’t this a good thing – a community more alert?)

I guess the question is simple: Are people less likely to do these drugs in these neighborhoods if the needle-exchange program doesn’t exist? I mean, when the needle-exchange program went dormant, did the quality of life in North Park go up, or did the ugly part just get pushed back under the rug?

SCOTT LEWIS

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