EVERETT – Citing crime statistics, the Everett Police Department has asked the city council to keep its nine drug control areas largely intact for the next two years.
Only Change Sgt. Chris Bennett moved a council meeting on Wednesday to remove a section of North Broadway based on the low number of drug references there last year.
The Stay Out of Drug Areas (SODAs) are zones of high illegal drug activity that a city court judge can prohibit people convicted of drug offenses from entering. People with such a court order can be arrested if they violate the prohibition.
“Statistics really show what is going on out there,” Councilor Judy Tuohy said on Wednesday.
Everett first adopted the SODAs ordinance in 2007, and police officers are required to review it every two years.
Since then, other cities, including Arlington and Marysville, have introduced similar ordinances. In 2017, Everett added two SODAs: a box around Clark Park and Everett High School, and the length of Everett Mall Way.
City guides and staff say the no-go zones are a useful tool in keeping people with substance use disorders out of the hotbeds of illicit drug sales and use and in curbing emergency calls from local residents. Last year, Everett Police received 1,359 service calls for substance abuse, resulting in 774 drug-related arrests, primarily for possession, drug trafficking and SODA violations, Bennett said.
“We find they are immensely effective in the prosecutor’s office,” said prosecutor Lacey Offutt.
But the Zones sometimes work against the supposed goal of helping people struggling with substance abuse and bringing them into treatment. Robert Smiley, founder and president of The Hand Up Project advocacy group for people who are homeless or addicted, said the regulation can make it difficult for organizations in the areas to help people, even if there is an exception, which gives them access to these places.
“They’re very focused on making rules and regulations when they should be focused on the process,” said Smiley.
He wants governments to strengthen their ranks as social workers, such as the Everett Community Outreach and Enforcement Team, so that these professionals have more follow-up and fewer cases of meeting people on the street and provide them with housing resources and services. Offer health care and recovery programs.
“If they’re going to make a difference at Everett, once they’ve taken them to the detox, the embedded social workers have to follow up twice a week, not once a week, and not 50,000 customers,” said Smiley. “If the money isn’t there, it won’t happen.”
During the council meeting, councilors Brenda Stonecipher and Liz Vogeli said they were concerned about the stigma that could accompany a neighborhood with SODA. Stonecipher said the zones “kind of put a label on certain areas in our community,” and Vogeli asked Bennett and Offutt to compile data on firearm recovery and gang violence in other SODAs after both of them were mentioned in the report for the Casino Road area were.
“It just makes Casino Road a scary and horrible place, and I think we’re going over it,” said Vogeli. “I know we have some problems.”
The city council could vote on it next week.
Ben Watanabe: [email protected]; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.