Needle Drop-Off Boxes In San Francisco Parks Stir Controversy

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — While some San Francisco officials are pushing to put more drop-off boxes for used needles in parks, there is an outcry from some local parents.

Many are concerned the boxes actually encourage the use of intravenous drugs in the same playgrounds where children play.

Supervisor Jane Kim wants more of them because she says it will increase safety for those kids.

“I’m just tired of hearing from families and children that they are finding needles in our parks,” said Kim.

She’s pushing the city to install similar boxes at other city parks where drug users hang out.

“It’s not that I want to encourage this kind of behavior,” said Kim “That’s not what we want to see in our streets. But the reality is that it’s happening.”

The idea of more needle drop-off boxes is getting mixed reviews on social media.

One critic wrote: “Absolutely crazy.  Do you really think users are going to shoot up and then go look for the needle box? If anything, they will think parks are a safe place to shoot up.”

But Kim says one park located in the South of Market neighborhood shows why the boxes work.

Bobbie Washington teaches at the school across the street. She says until recently it wasn’t kid friendly:

“They would find needles, rubbers,” said Washington. “We stopped coming over.”

Then the city started a bathroom-monitoring program called “Pit Stop.” It included the boxes for used syringes.

“I have not seen it attract anybody,” said Pit Stop program supervisor DeJuan Lewis. “What it’s done is help clean up the area and enable the kids across the street to use this park.”  

It’s estimated 22,000 IV drug users call San Francisco home. Throwing away a syringe in a trash can is illegal in California. Kim says that helps explain why so many end up in the wrong place:

“We should give individuals a place to safely dispose of them so that they’re not in our garbage cans sticking out,” said Kim. “But they’re not on the streets where members of the public might accidentally step on them.”

According to the city, during a recent eight-month period, more than 6,600 syringes were dropped off at various pit stop locations.

The City is reviewing the proposal to install more boxes.

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