Needle exchange, public health and neighborhood security

April 29, 2014

Emeline Neighbors Meeting

County Supervisor McPherson shared some changes with the needle exchange program that are under review for implementation with action by the Board expected in June:

  • Reducing days of needle exchange operation at Emeline from 5 to 2
  • Implementing a mobile needle exchange service for countywide service
  • Identifying a responsible non-profit to carry out operation of mobile service
  • Identifying more kiosk locations. [The County stated that in 10 months of operation, the kiosk collected 67,000 needles]
  • Identifying funding to install a fence surrounding the Emeline campus
  • Identifying funding to continue the increased security patrols of the campus

The County is also pursing solutions that are directly out of the County’s hands, for instance, the ability of pharmacies to dispense large numbers of needles and the lack of exchange requirement in pharmacies (state law).

Mayor Robinson spoke of improvements to Grant Street Park, the addition of six Park Rangers, ongoing implementation of Public Safety Task Force recommendations and beautification of Ocean Street.  The Mayor discussed the Downtown Accountability Program as a ground-breaking coordinated effort between law enforcement, the courts, the County, the City and service provides that will have effects ranging far beyond downtown.  The early results of the program show great success for greater accountability and targeted service delivery to stop the cycle of recidivism.

The City and County commented on the new spirit of communication and collaboration to address these joint problems.

Community members offered comments and questions in four major areas:  the needle exchange program, Grant Street Park, the greater neighborhood and creek trail and communitywide.

Needle Exchange

  1. The needle exchange program should leave the county
  2. Request that ID be required to obtain needles
  3. The needle exchange program needs greater accountability
  4. Why can’t needles be marked?  A colored or bar-coded needle seems simple to identify if the discarded needles are coming from the needle exchange or the pharmacies. Please reconsider distinguishing needles.
  5. Recommends tracking people with the needles they receive to know what sort of vectors might be in the needles (HIV, Hep-C, etc).
  6. County should provide support and funding for people who receive a needle stick from a discarded needle.

Grant Street Park

  1. Police presence is needed for school bus pick-up/drop-off
  2. Need more patrols, police and First Alarm in the park and neighborhood
  3. City Rangers are not addressing the problems.  They miss them or look the other way.
  4. The bathroom in Grant Street Park is a revolving door for drug dealing and thieves.  Patrols don’t see it.  The restrooms should be closed.
  5. Grant Street Park’s off-leash area needs more fencing to keep people out.

Neighborhood and Trail

  1. More patrols, on foot, of the trail are needed
  2. Need more patrols, police and First Alarm in the park and neighborhood
  3. Need more lighting around the neighborhood (lighting improvements in Grant Street Park have been helpful)
  4. There have been drunk drivers and speeding on Emeline; no one parks on Emeline anymore.  Request for signage to caution drivers to slow down.
  5. There are greater numbers of homeless people around the neighborhood, for instance, sleeping under bushes in front yards.
  6. The police don’t always respond when we call.


  1. We need to address the larger problem of Santa Cruz as an attractant for people who believe they can get services and use drugs here.  We need to change this perception.
  2. Santa Cruz needs an overarching plan of how we deal with people who need assistance.  Santa Monica could serve as a model.