City Council’s “Public Safety” Committee Meets Wednesday 5-1 at 6 PM

The “Public Safety” Update below is from the Public Safety Task Force staff, not from the Public Safety Committee.  The Public Safety Committeewhich meets Wednesday at 6 PM is a standing Committee of City Council whose meetings are required to  be open to the public and agendaized 72 hours in advance.It’s not clear whether the Task Force, recently Continue reading

Informative Needle Exchange Interview

NOTE BY NORSE:  Uncharacteristically powerful and informative interview with Emily Ager of Street Outreach Supporters needle exchange.  Though it doesn’t name local names and point the finger at the culprits who shut down the Barsen St. Needle Exchange, it even educated the interviewer and radicallly shifted his viewpoint.

I disagree somewhat on Ager’s advice on how to deal with SCPD (“be honest” rather than “be  silent” or “ask questions, don’t volunteer answers”), but I think letting cops know if you have an exposed needle in your pocket and they’re going to search you anyway is sound advice.

The whole probation/parole/search/can’t carry needles scam is a receipe for escalating improper needle disposal (as protection against prosecution) as well as a make-work program for prisons, jails, courts, lawyers, etc.  We also need some radically different approaches to addiction problems such as Vancouver or Europe’s approaches (injection rooms, inhalation centers where people can legally and safely shoot up or sniff).

If Emily is accurate in her info, this interview gives significant resources, to those seeking to dissolve the misinformation and fear spread by groups like Take Back Santa Cruz and The Clean Team.

Reports of Attacks on the Homeless in Santa Cruz

The following comment is part of a larger thread on Santa Cruz Indymedia at  which criticizes the tepid and vague response of establishment liberals and “progressives” to the attacks on needle exchange, homeless services, homeless people, the counterculture, and the right to use public spaces.

by Robert Norse

Tuesday Mar 26th, 2013 9:47 AM

Yesterday at the Red Church’s Monday evening meal, I did my usual interviewing of folks.

A number of neural reports (i.e. police haven’t been harassing as much as usual).

However a major report involves an incident at the City Parking Lot across from the Elm St. Mission and the Cafe Pergolesi last week when somewhewre between 6 and 10 squad cars reportedly corralled and ticketed a dozen or so people (I have the impression they were counterculture/traveller/homeless-looking or just perhaps economic underclass folks). And ticketed them to stop a hackeysack game some of them were playing. The charge: the old Parking Lot Panic law–MC 9.64.020 (“Trespass” on a public parking lot–the law that makes it illegal to be in a parking lot unless you’re walking directly through or parking or retrieving your vehicle). I received at least three independent angry reports on this.

Another report was of Sam-I-Am (both directly from him and from upset companions earlier) being assaulted by four men who seemed in the troll-busting mode because what they said was “I want your hat” (a humiliation ritual) and they refused to give it to them. He was assaulted with a skateboard, and hospitalized with a fractured spine–or so he said as he stood in line at the meal in some apparent pain (but without, he said, adequate pain medication from Dominican).

A third report was of a man (who wished to remain anonymous) flying a sign out at the Mission St. Safeway. First three youths spat on him as they drove by. Then a guy stopped. He went over thinking it was perhaps a food donation or somesuch. The guy reportedly ostentatiously got out of his car, took out his cell phone and loudly announce he was calling the police and reporting that the homeless man was kicking his car. He then demanded the homeless man leave (or “leave town”, not sure which) according to this report.

Two women lying on the beach during the day were told by a security guard that they had been there “too long” and “had to leave” by their report or he would “call the police”. Or so they said.

And then there was the incident I witnessed on Friday night right outside Andy’s Auto on Pacific: The daughter of Shalom Compst and Marilyn Dreampeace, a woman in her 40’s, walked across Pacific Avenue from the Metro bus side to near where I was standing. A police officer came up to her and demanded to know why she’d done that.

It is not illegal to cross Pacific Avenue anywhere between Laurel St. and the Town Clock unless (a) you are obstructing a vehicle, or (b) the police have set up a traffic-controlled intersection with a stoplight or traffic cop. Such has been my undertanding as a person who has weathered jaywalking tickets in the past.

He gave her a $100-200 jaywalking ticket anyway in spite of her pleas.

Had I known this was a jaywalking ticket as it was being written, I would have so announced it to each passerby and asked them to stop and wait as witnesses (though it was dark and around 8:30 at night). One can write this off to nubie officer ignorance or over-zealotry (I didn’t recognize the cop, whose name I was told was Clauer or something like that).

I also received a report from Billy Q that a recent Grant Street park public meeting had homeless people driven away by police last week. The TBSC website describes the homeless-free event favorably at /. This abusive exclusionary process replicates what happened at the Sharon Collins memorial last summer at San Lorenzo Park. And if the account is accurate, the SCPD or officers of same, are direct agents.

It could be I’m getting lifted by the hysteria of the times around these incidents, but they seem to be growing more serious and more numerous: vigilante, security guard, and police harassment and actual threats and assaults.

There’s a “Families First” march today from Harvey West to City Hall for 5 PM according to the TBSC website.[See ]. Since there’s no evening City Council meeting (only one at 3 PM and supposedly one at 5 PM for Oral Communication), it appears Families First–which I’m assuming is a TBSC-front group–is planning to ignore the politicians, who surf the waves of the moment, and mobilize homeless-haters, fearful-neighbors, frustrated workers, and gentrification gurus from all around the town to create an even more powerful lobbying group.

I’ll be at the 5 PM City Council Oral Communications (2 minutes and shut up)–which may be held significantly earlier since there doesn’t seem to be that much on the afternoon agenda. And then covering the TBSC (which I’ve taken to calling Take Over Santa Cruz) march for FRSC and to voice my own views.

Please post reports of any incidents you experience or witness. Video and audio are particularly helpful (sorry I don’t have much). I did play the Jaywalking incident on Free Radio on Sunday. It’s archived on the HUFF website if you search through the 3-24 show towards the end, but I’ll post its location more clearly on the descriptions section soon.

Include time, place, names and descriptions, dialogue overheard, step-by-step account, etc. if you have any of these details. The more specific the better.

Three Flyers & Two Petitions from HUFF [6 Attachments]

[Attachment(s)from Robert Norse included below]

These are recent flyers I wrote.

Two for the 180/180 program presentation by Councilmember Don Lane and Monica Martinez at the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom in Santa Cruz last Tuesday (2-19) which ignored all other abuses against the homeless to panhandle for more money for the very limited Housing First! program.  HUFF supports Housing First, but not at the expense of watching police destroy homeless survival camps and ignore the need for immediate facilities.

More recently, I wrote two flyers to distribute to homeless people at the Monday “Red Church” meal.  The flyers are self-explanatory.

I’m also including a rather weak “we’d like needle exchange somewhere in the city” petition presented by Councilmember Micah Posner.  It’s in two pages.


Needle Exchange Petition p. 1. – pdf
Needle Exchange Petition p. 2. – pdf
Flyer 2-16a. – pdf
Flyer 2-16b. – pdf
HLOSC Flyer. – pdf

Talk Back at Looney Bigotry Showcased as Angry “Activism”

A drumbeat of right-wing vitriol is now being lionized in the media.  Ken “Skin-Dog” Collins has his guts in the right place but his head in a tv show starring citizen cops and homeless villains.

My reaction to the Santa Cruz Weekly article below:

Cleaning up trash is one thing, talking trash and treating people like trash is another.

Recognizing politicians ducking issues and holding them to account is one thing, pressing a

violent senseless Drug War is another.

Calling for the resignation of powerful top-salary institutional bureaucrats like Martin Bernal is

one thing, calling for a search-and-destroy policy against homeless people destroying

homeless services and bulldozing homeless camps–is another.

Step back and consider who the real culprits are as the war, surveillance, and bankster

economy crushes us all.

Santa Cruz’s Angriest Man

Big-wave surfer Ken Collins has become a public-safety activist and controversial figure

Ken Collins, a Santa Cruz big-wave surfer turned controversial activist, talks to an officer while cleaning up at Harvey West.

Ken Collins has been talking nonstop for fifteen minutes. His voice is getting hoarse, and the cold he fought off a day earlier sounds like it’s coming back. “This is a small surf city with big city problems. It should never have gotten this bad,” he says, sitting at a picnic table about thirty yards from the Harvey West Park woods where he played hide-and-seek as a kid. These days, Collins wouldn’t let his children on the playground.
Collins has with him an empty plastic milk carton of cigarette butts and used syringes he found on the ground. When he goes to a city council meeting, he brings the same carton with him, and shakes it like a rattle in between public commenters.
Collins, better known as “Skindog” to the extreme sports world, is one of the world’s premiere big-wave surfers. He competed in the Mavericks Surf Competition last month—and from the looks of it, probably hasn’t smiled since. Collins took up this local cause after a long Tuesday walk in November when he and about 20 others found a bunch of trash on the railroad tracks and stormed into the city council chambers to give the politicians an earful.
Collins isn’t the only person angry about used needles and homeless addicts around Pogonip City Park, the San Lorenzo River and Cowell Beach, which ranked as the worst beach in California last year. But he might be the most

“Santa Cruz is a supermodel with AIDS,” he says. “It’s this beautiful place that’s completely diseased.”
Collins calls the Homeless Services Center a “crack house.” (HSC director Monica Martinez says the shelters have a no-drug policy.) He says the city manager should be fired for failing to address Santa Cruz’s public safety, and accuses city councilmembers of not doing their jobs, even though two of them began their first terms less than two months ago. Collins is a little short on patience.
Volunteers Craig Lambert and Gary Young are working nearby in the Harvey West’s baseball field to build a batting cage. Last season, the two men, both of them fathers, showed up early before little league games to clean trash off the field. They say someone has to do what Collins is doing.
“When I was a kid,” Young says, “we’d play outside until we got hungry and come home for dinner. You can’t let your kids play out until dark anymore. You have to practically drive them everywhere.”
It’s tough to deny that Collins, regardless of what anyone thinks of what he spouts, embodies the frustration that erupted after fellow surfer Dylan Greiner made a YouTube video in November about three tons of trash in the caves near Cowell Beach.
Collins says he’s not just harping on problems, but also has solutions. He suggests the city build public restrooms with surveillance cameras out front, while also hiring a ten-member group to pick up trash and a four-member team of police officers with all-terrain vehicles and horses to “harass” homeless people and chase drug dealers out of town. The city is looking at healthy reserves for the first time in years, and Santa Cruz might hire new cops, but plans like Collins’ would be no small expense for a city.
“There are good homeless people,” Collins says. “I have compassion for the homeless people that are down on their luck and need help, and they’re seeking help. But there are junkies who use the homeless population to hide themselves and camouflage themselves to do their dirty seedy work.”
There’s no evidence that Santa Cruz’s recent high-profile crimes—two shootings, a grocery-store robbery, and a rape at UCSC—were committed by homeless people. But Santa Cruz Police Captain Steve Clark says a “playful attitude” about drug use has plagued Santa Cruz for years, and leads to more crime.
At a recent city council meeting, councilmember Don Lane cautioned against dividing homeless people into different camps.
“Those are all people who are homeless, and they may have different needs, and the community may want to deal with them differently, but we do need to deal with them,” Lane said at the Feb. 12 meeting. “The fact that someone’s homeless and a drug addict does not make them a non-human being in our community. And we need to deal with those folks in a constructive way, too.”
“Skindog” is not backing down. “My approach has been very aggressive. I’m very aggressive,” he says. “I don’t pussyfoot around this. I don’t tread lightly trying to be polite, because that’s not going to work.”


Clean Needle and Syringe Distribution is a Necessity not a Menace

Penelope Jernberg, a former intern with Santa Cruz needle exchange, is independent of that group now and speaks as a free agent.   She is currently working to decriminalize syrine possession to start operating syringe services in Nevada. I received the following letter from her on Sunday February 17th.

Hi Robert,
First, I would like to address the confusion about “best practices” for syringe access and public health recommendations.  The current recommendations for syringe access are to provide as many unused syringes as possible.  The reason for this is that for each injection a person should be using a new syringe, for every time.  That means if a person injects 4 times a day, they need 4 needles a day, not reusing one.  The health concern for this is that reusing makes the syringe dull, this can tear skin more than needed.  The more pressing reason is that reusing a syringe exposes the syringe to many bacteria, that bacteria is then injected straight into blood or tissue which frequently causes or puts them at higher risk of other health problems such as MRSA (drug resistant staph), necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating bacteria), and a host of other disease.
This is not even including sharing syringes.  As I’m sure you know sharing syringes is the number one cause of Hepatitis C in our country, which estimates that over 70% of IDU’s (injection drug users) contract it.  This is what fuels me.  I’m not sure at what point any person should be condemned to a slow death of liver failure due to their own preferences.  Some drugs are legal and some are not.  People are prescribed serious opiates by doctors and those that can not get them use heroin, which in its pure form is actually safer and better for your health than fentanyl, morphene, and oxycontin.
To not have access to syringes is the primary reason that people share theirs with others while using drugs. this is not just the first cause of transmission for HCV it is also the third cause of HIV transmission in our country. Another life long and deadly disease.
 The current CDC recommendations are that an IDU use a new syringe for every injection.  That implies they would need as many as they use personally.  To have a one for one policy restricts the amount that an individual has access to at any given time.  If they only have one and the exchange is not open for another two days and they inject five times a day…that’s only simple arithmetic to know they do not have enough to inject safely every time.  The previous exchange at the drop in center had a one for one policy.  I urge those that are against it to think about the repercussions of not giving enough syringes. On a human note, without regards to literature it just makes sense.  I recall on one such occasion working at the drop in center when an individual was trying to get just one needle and I could not give it to him because he did not have one.  He told me he was on his way to the metro to fish one out of the biohazards, likely to contract some disease. Why would we do this to someone just because we don’t agree with a policy?  We as a community condemned him to that because we couldn’t accept a one for one plus program.  This occasion and the many others that were similar broke my heart, and they push me every day to do more research, to try harder, to help those that can not help them selves.
To go back to resources and policy.  There are numerous federally funded studies that prove with significance that one for one is not an effective policy.  The Surgeon General endorses syringe access and the federal government has such loose language for oversight or recommendations that you could throw unused needles out of a window and that would follow federal guidelines.  So when anyone says it does not follow guidelines, I’m curious which ones?  There are none. (a copy of the most up to date federal guidelines) Syringe access has been passed on to state and local governments as a policy, way too large of a policy for a small government to regulate.  When the Santa Cruz City Council first claimed SOS did not have the correct paperwork to operate a syringe access program I can address that: There is NO paperwork, there are no permits, there are very few to no regulations discerning what a syringe access program can and can not do.
Several years ago when I was more involved and helped to establish the exchange we filed an MOU with the HSA that recognized us as a viable program, to this day they support us completely, including following a one for one plus model. During this time I tried to connect with the police department to establish some agreement with them.  What happened was appalling at best.  I tried to have a conversation with Steve Clark who immediately cut me off and suddenly was yelling at me over the phone, thank goodness I did not try to go in there.  I was and still am offended.  This man clearly should not be in a public position as I experienced him loosing his temper in a matter of minutes.  He then went on to say he did not and would not support our program because we did not follow federal guidelines.   Obviously I tried to address the fact that there are NO federal guidelines. He used his same tactic, and barely let me talk.  So, we never established anything with the police department, but boy we tried.
The only grounds that the City Council legitimately has on SOS is that they were operating without consent of the laundromat owner, we also tried to contact him when we first took over, I do not even know who he or she is.
To address discarded syringes: the primary reason people improperly discard their syringes is police harassment.  It is currently legal to posses up to 30 unused syringes and any amount that are containerized.  This has not changed with law enforcement practices.  People are going to jail for possession of paraphernalia laws that no longer exist! For fear of arrest they are throwing them where they can (in general). As my previous anecdote states, I’m sure police practice won’t change since Dick Clark er, Steve Clark won’t even talk about needles without yelling.  I for one hope never to talk to him again.
Finally, to address the current laws, they are both current and correct.  Let me specify a few points of them both.  Pharmacists are allowed to provide up to 30 syringes without a prescription. (law here)
The downsides to this law:
  • Sale is at the discretion of the pharmacist, if you look dirty they probably won’t sell to you
  • The pharmacy has to opt in to selling this to start with
  • syringes cost money, if you need money to get your fix or food more money is hard to get
  • you can only get 30, what if you are exchanging for multiple people and inject frequently.
  • the pharmacist does not provide other works which by sharing also lead to infection
  • the pharmacist does not provide referrals to other services (shelter, food, medical services)
  • the pharmacist most likely does not know health complications specific to IDUs
  • in general, listening and being a non judgmental advocate as SOS volunteers are, is lost in this process

This law is definitely a step in the right direction, but it is no solution.  There are still many limitations to this law.

In regards to the other, yes California legally permits Syringe Access Programs.  This law allows specific counties or jurisdictions to allow Syringe Access Programs in their community when they see fit.  It is still not an oversight law or regulation though, the county or area has to allow it.  Santa Cruz allowed it decades ago, and I do not know the specifics of that. It is my understanding that an MOU is sufficient to allow an SAP to function.
I know this was long, but I have a lot to say about Syringe Access. It is from my experience that what is preventing these programs from functioning to their fullest across the nation is stigma of IDUs and drug use (primarily), a lack of understanding public health, and a lack of better regulation.  There is a lot to overcome before we can rest at night knowing we are preventing HIV or HCV to the best of our abilities.
Robert, thank you for your interest in syringe access and the Santa Cruz program, and for being an advocate. I hope I addressed your questions, please let me know if you have any further questions.  I would like to add that I write this as an individual and with no representation, perhaps only as a student at this point.
Thank You,
Penelope Jernberg
University of Nevada, Reno
MPH Graduate Assistant

From: Robert Norse <>
To: Steve Pleich <>
Cc: David Silva <>; Penelope Jernberg <>
Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2013 7:21 AM
Subject: Needle Exchange Question

A story in the L.A. Times about the Fresno Needle Exchange attracted my attention after I read this comment on your post at indybay:


by Observed

Wednesday Feb 13th, 2013 6:02 PM

…first of all I support needle exchange!

That means a 1 for 1 policy.

Obviously that was the policy of the SC exchange when you were involved. But equally obvious is the fact 1 for 1 is no longer the policy. That has created unintended consequences. Until the exchange is more manageable things need to be put on hold.

Fresno’s experience was that it was not a great idea to operate in or very near homes. Being in a regional park had its problems when used needles started turning up in a children’s play area. While it was likely NOT the fault of the exchange, it was still blamed for the problem. [emphasis mine]

To its credit, the Fresno took positive steps and so prevented a shutdown. Given its illegal status at the time it would’ve been very easy to justify closing it down completely. The county supervisors were very hostile towards the concept and the city simply looked the other way. The county had prosecuted volunteers in the late 1990s when the exchange operated in the Tower District.

When the used needles turned up, the exchange moved out of the park to a nearby commercial area. That relieved the community concerns and things kept on trucking.

Hopefully the SC exchange can resolve the problems it now faces. It better. Otherwise it may go away completely. That would be likely very unfortunate.

My questions is whether you have heard this was a problem (neighborhood needle exchange resulting in the unsafe disposal of needles nearby) here, in Fresno, or elsewhere ?

I then accessed the following story about Fresno from the L.A. Times

Needle exchange proudly flouts the law


The story includes the following info:

Two bills now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk could supersede Fresno’s prohibition on needle exchange. One would let doctors, pharmacists and workers at approved programs provide a limited number of syringes without a prescription. The other would direct the state Department of Public Health to sanction needle exchange when they believe there is a public health risk.

Did these bills pass?



City Council Inflicts Take Back Santa Cruz Agenda on the Town

The Sentinel’s police-puffing, sensationalist, and slanted coverage of Tuesday’s Santa Cruz  City Council meeting’s discussion of its “Public Safety” Committee report is at . The coverage outrageously shoehorns the recent Monday Westside robbery/shooting into the Martinez’s sweet-sounding but deceptive talk about drug use. If he were serious about his bogus “treatment solution”, his talk about “their medicine”, etc., he’d be calling for the money to go to addiction prevention, but no–he wants more cops. The police department has also played a complicit role in the shutdown of needle exchange at Barson by not speaking out on the issue.

Similarly, Posner and Lane did not publicly oppose it and have not called for immediate restoration of the long-used site This is a clear public health crisis waiting to happen when dumping bad needles is now likely increasing big-time. These are the gutless liberals elected and reelected in November.

SC Patch has its equally police-palsy coverage at (with no clarification on the specifics on the Council’s action).

What is made clear is that Robinson and Comstock are gunning for Needle Exchange even on the outskirts of the City. They made pointed attacks on the Emeline St. increased distribution “not being authorized” by the County. (It’s being done 3 times a week now rather than once.) This misguided attack savages an inadequate but obviously necessary attempt by the County to make up for the behind-closed-doors shut-down of Needle Exchange at Barson St. That closure was the only real action that City Council has taken–all behind closed doors, without public comment, and in line with the Take Back Santa Cruz agenda. The rest is blather, attempts to manage the situation through meaningless resolutions delayed into the future.

That absurd and politically-motivated move will probably at least double the number of discarded used needles. Beefing up the police force (instead of redirecting their priorities) is another bonehead psuedo-public safety move. It is, of course, again in line with TBSC’s “bigotry first” approach, holding homeless camps, homeless services, and “drug tolerance” responsible for crime and drug use. This J. Edgar Hoover approach is the 21st Century equivalent of Reefer Madness and deadly dangerous as well as being wildly irresponsible.

Some ideas for action: Going back to civil disobedient needle distribution (which originally established it as a legal option). Marches to the offices of Robinson and Comstock protesting their crazy attacks on needle exchange—which have “kill those addicted and infect the community” consequences. Mobile public pickets in front of businesses or at tourist locations advising tourists that not only are they visiting a homeless-hating town, but they’re also more likely to find needles in their soup.

One of the interesting things to notice about Deputy Vice-Chief Clark’s comments in recent Sentinel articles are his attempts to reassure people that Santa Cruz is a “safe” community, indicating the nervousness of the DTA and SCPD regarding the recent right-wing hysteria around the needle issue. They’d like to use it to buff up their force, increase police power–but not really address the real (and often valid) issues that the Needlemaniacs are raising–trash, bad police priorities (with crime in the neighborhoods), & inadequate needle disposal.

The toxic link here is of course with homeless people–who are being blamed (with no stats supporting the claim).