Cleaning Up Addicts’ Needles A Full-Time Job In San Francisco

REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell is creating a full-time work force to clean up the used needles that are strewn around the city’s streets by drug addicts.

As the San Francisco Examiner reports, Farrell announced Monday that the workers will have the “sole responsibility” of disposing of the needles and syringes.

The issue could be intensified if San Francisco successfully becomes the first in the U.S. to open a supervised injection site where addicts can come to shoot-up illegal drugs without fear of being arrested by local police. New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Seattle are also considering such a proposal that proponents argue saves lives but critics say only enables and perpetuates drug use. The first supervised injection site in North America opened in Vancouver, Canada in 2005.

Although city cleaning services and volunteers are already attempting to remove the dirty needles from pubic view, Farrell describes these efforts as a “disjointed patchwork” that need to be enhanced by a dedicated team. Consequently, the city is covering the funding for the local AIDS Foundation to hire 10 new workers who will each earn $75,000 per annum for highly specific trash removal, or “a dedicated team whose sole responsibility is needle pick up,” according to Farrell.

The mayor says residents will be able to see the results of the campaign “without a doubt.” But if the 10 new positions are insufficient to meet the city’s needs, “We will fund more.”

“As I have said consistently, street cleaning will be a top priority for me in the upcoming budget and my proposal will be much more comprehensive and geared to meet the needs of every neighborhood in San Francisco,” read a recent statement from Farrell, whose term as mayor ends this coming July.

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