Drug Abuse Is Far from Victimless

September 27, 2022

Dear Editor,

LA County’s irresponsible incursion into Santa Monica’s parks with its Needle Exchange program for drug abusers exposes both a dishonorable County process and reliably weak Santa Monica policy ("Council Expected to Ask County's Help Removing Clean Needle Program from Parks," September 12, 2022).

First, I note the County health bureaucrat who champions the lunacy of enticing narcotics addicts to assemble near a children’s playground stated he was aware of community concerns before receiving Mayor Himmelrich’s letter, which was little more than a meek request for assistance to potentially relocate the Needle exchange to a different Santa Monica location.

Unsurprisingly, the Mayor did not appear to push back on why a Santa Monica location should be favored in the first place. After all, the City handed over its public spaces to homeless drug abusers long ago -- including relinquishing Chess Park like a beaten General might gift a peace offering while waving a surrender flag. How could anyone imagine Santa Monica’s stated strategy of ensuring public spaces “continue to be safe, clean, and enjoyable for all” is anything but a calculated political invention?

On the other hand, perhaps our City didn’t question a Santa Monica location because it is so unlikely the County would heed such an inquiry. After all, the County’s health-bureaucrat-in-charge disparaged ideas for alternatives as “posing their own challenges,” and stated the program would continue to operate out of Reed Park for the time being regardless of any “concerns about its visibility” there, with narcotics needle exchanges sometimes offered in other Santa Monica parks as well.

Indeed, this marvel of County absurdity authoritatively proclaimed that Reed Park is the only “fixed location” for drug abuse needle exchanges on the Westside. Yet the program’s contractor operates a fixed-location clinic in Venice.

Is Santa Monica an essential Westside location because the contractor’s bricks-and-mortar Venice health clinic is an inappropriate site for a Health Department drug abuser program? Has Venice run short of homeless drug addicts seeking free syringes? Or perhaps Venice is simply more fed up than Santa Monica with a brand of political chicanery so vile it would maintain a narcotics-related needle giveaway on the same site as a children’s playground while negotiating an alternative site within the same put-upon jurisdiction. ("Sure, [INSERT NEW LOCATION HERE] is overrun with drug addicts now, but at least it isn’t next to a playground!”)

Worst of all, at a time when the entire region is aghast at news of school-age overdose victims, why is any local government normalizing and enabling addictive drug abuse by distributing syringes intended solely for injecting dangerous, illegal narcotics? Are these so-called leaders so empty-headed?

Finally, make no mistake: drug abuse is far from victimless. In addition to the horrific harm they inflict on themselves and the suffering their families must endure, abusers routinely commit all manner of crimes to fund their dependencies. As recently as mid-September, SMPD responded to an aggressive robbery at Tongva Park. When apprehended, the robbery suspects possessed drug paraphernalia as well as the victim’s stolen property. Crime and narcotics stalk the mean streets in tandem.

What to do about this? I offer the following suggestions for City officials and residents.

City officials: Clean up the parks now. Surrendering more Santa Monica public spaces to drugs and street crime is unacceptable. Despite the State Legislature’s reckless legal loophole that allows personal possession of syringes intended for injecting illegal drugs, violations of several other drug and drug paraphernalia laws are enforceable misdemeanors that the City Attorney’s office can and should prosecute. Make Santa Monica less hospitable to drug abusers and associated street crime.

Residents: Demand tough, immediate action from elected officials and unambiguous policy statements from candidates for office. Withhold your support from those whose core views undermine public safety, regardless of their election-year lip service to the contrary. Alert news media to persistent unsolved problems, unaccountable government officials, or political foot-dragging. Be aware of your right to loudly and publicly protest government policy.


Peter DiChellis - Unaffiliated moderate
Santa Monica - 90403

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