Needles in the Park

For the second time in the past year, we discovered used needles during our morning dog walk in Patterson Park. The first time this happened, I called 311, but I was directed to 911 to report it. In both cases, the Baltimore police responded rapidly and within 20 minutes, there was a patrol officer there disposing of the used needles.

I really appreciate the quick and professional response by the Baltimore police, but I do think about whether this was the best use of their resources and if this was the best solution to the problem. Appropriately disposing of used needles requires the right equipment and training on how to handle them, but it also isn’t something that requires a police officer. In addition, do they have the time or the right expertise to help a user if they are still in the area? While having a cleaner community helps to protect those using the park, it does not address the root cause or prevent the problem.

The aspect of having a patrol officer respond to the incident did make me think about how many 911 calls really required a police response. This seems like something that would be better responded to by either a group focused on sanitation in the city or a group focused on improving the lives of drug users.

Due to the issues facing the city, it would seem that increasing the diversity of first responders would provide greater benefits at lower costs with other groups than the police responding to non-criminal or emergency situations. In addition, focusing on preventative measures like safe injection sites or reducing homelessness would likely have more meaningful, long-term impact.

Part of an email sent to my local councilperson

Written on February 25, 2023