Boston police turn a blind eye to drug use outside government ‘harm reduction’ facility

Violence and crime rages outside the clinic which provides free syringes and crack pipes

Police outside the AHOPE harm reduction center in Boston

Patrick Hauf • October 1, 2022 4:59 am

BOSTON—The sidewalk surrounding the city government’s so-called harm reduction center in South Boston, which exists to make drug use safe, has become a lawless haven for drug addicts who are free to s’ inject dangerous drugs in full view of the city police force. .

Drug addicts in the city gather outside for access, harm reduction, overdose prevention and education (A HOPE), the Boston Public Health Commission’s harm reduction center, to collect free drug paraphernalia such as syringes and crack pipes. The Washington Free tag saw several users injecting in front of the building, where an officer was sitting inside a parked police car. Remnants of pipes, syringes and capsules filled the cracks in the sidewalk. Security guards at a nearby homeless shelter said police were monitoring the area to tackle violence – which erupts daily between drug users – but otherwise overlooked public drug use.

“All the time, violence,” said a security guard at the Free tag.

So far this year, Boston police have made 29 aggravated assault arrests on the one-mile street outside the AHOPE facility, which adjoins Boston University Medical Campus and Boston Medical Center. , according to police data. Police also made arrests for 12 robberies, 5 car thefts, 23 arrest warrants and 32 “patient aid”, including 8 for “drug-related illness”. While Boston police also made 44 arrests for “drug possession/sale, manufacture/use,” it’s unclear what specific charge was behind each arrest. The police refused to speak to a Free tag reporter on site, and the Boston Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.

The disorder outside of AHOPE provides a case study of how the Biden administration’s controversial harm-reduction approach to drug policy – which aims to make drug use more safe for drug addicts rather than preventing it – can facilitate crime and the abuse of dangerous drugs. The Department of Health and Human Services launched the nation’s first federal harm reduction program in May, distributing $30 million in grants to organizations to distribute drug paraphernalia such as syringes and “kits.” for smoking”, which often include crack pipes. The White House said those funds wouldn’t go down the drain, but several grant recipients are distributing the drugs, according to a Free tag investigation.

In addition to clean hoses and syringes, harm reduction groups such as AHOPE also distribute fentanyl test strips, Narcan and disease tests, which aim to mitigate the health risks associated with HIV. drug abuse. However, outside the Boston Harm Reduction Center, about a dozen drug addicts are being transported to Massachusetts General Hospital each day for treatment after showing signs of overdose, security officers said.

While the area outside the facility is a de facto port for illicit drug use – one addict said drug addicts naturally migrate there due to the free drug paraphernalia – the official injection sites are illegal under federal law. The Biden administration is set to declare such injection sites legal, the New York Times reported in July, which would allow people to use drugs under the supervision of medical professionals to help prevent overdose deaths. The Trump administration has canceled an attempt to open an injection site in Philadelphia, but that decision is expected to be reversed by the Justice Department. Injection sites are currently operating in New York.

Two trash cans mark the area in front of the homeless shelter where drug use is prohibited. A woman passed out next to the other trash can.

During a visit to the harm reduction center, the police kicked all drug addicts off the streets after they refused to speak to a Free tag journalist. One of the security guards said he had only seen police evacuate everyone “a few times” since he started working there this year.

“[Police] let them shoot,” he said. “But not in front of the buildings.

Police returned to keep drug users away from the city-run harm reduction building.

“The good thing is that we give them sleep and hope,” the security guard added. “The bad thing is that you keep the addiction going.”

The Boston Public Health Commission and the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, which treats drug addicts after overdoses on public streets, did not respond to requests for comment.

About Sally E. Bartley

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