As with many major cities, Seattle’s homeless problem has been exacerbated by illegal drug use.
Along with the human tragedy, there are many side effects that impact the community, including hypodermic needles strewn about the city’s parks.
A Seattle police officer put a spotlight on the problem this week when he stepped on a needle while on patrol in a park.
He’s now receiving intense treatment to protect him from serious diseases, including HIV and hepatitis, , who said the incident is renewing concerns over police and resident safety in Seattle parks.
“This officer was simply walking through the grassy field of a city park, near where children were playing, when he stepped on the needle, which was hidden in the grass,” Sgt. Rich O’Neil, vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, said in an interview on “The Jason Rantz Show.”
“The officer was taken to the hospital and is now undergoing ongoing, debilitating treatment to prevent HIV and other diseases,” the sergeant said.
One year ago, 32,012 hypodermic needles were collected in the first 15 months of a pilot program believed to be unique to Seattle, .
In January, , the company behind the painkiller OxyContin, accusing the company of fueling the area’s opioid epidemic. Alleging “the opioid epidemic has contributed significantly to the homelessness crisis in King County,” the suit described deplorable conditions in parks, including syringes found daily at a children’s play area, used needles daily on ball fields and homeless encampments filled with human waste.
Nearby Snohomish County is handing out free needle cleanup kits for residents. In the Seattle suburb of Bothell, instructing children how to handle any discarded syringes they may encounter.
In March 2005, King County vowed to end homelessness in 10 years. But a decade later, while the ranks of the homeless declined in Washington state and nationally, in the Seattle area, .
people in King County of 4 percent from the previous year.
Rantz explained the injured officer works with Seattle Police Department unit that focuses on homelessness, called the Navigation Team.
The officer was on a routine walk-through of Baker Park in Seattle’s Crown Hill neighborhood when he suddenly felt a sharp pain between his toes that became so strong he was unable to stand.
After treatment at a hospital, the officer began an anti-HIV cocktail, followed by additional tests to see if he had been exposed to any diseases.
Rantz noted that just weeks ago, a former FBI operative and current Seattle City Council candidate Naveed Jamali was walking in Seattle, near the waterfront, when his young children found needles and used-condoms.