Poulsbo taking steps in response to heroin problem

KITSAP COUNTY -- The city of Poulsbo is working overtime in their battle against heroin after used needles were popping up everywhere.

Now the city’s mayor has a tactical plan that includes hiring a new police officer and a drug dog, and that’s just the beginning.

Mayor Becky Erickson hopes to hire that new officer at the beginning of 2014. She’s also shuffling more than $125,000 in the city’s general fund for the new cop and the drug dog.

“When a problem is facing your community, you don’t ignore it, you address it,” said Erickson. “That’s what we’re going to do.”

The plan comes after hundreds of hypodermic needles found in parks, garbage cans, and public bathrooms since January. Public works employees discovered most of those needles and drugs.

“We find pieces of folded up tin foil or wide open tin foil scraps with black lines on them,” said Kristian Watson, who is employed in the public works department.

Instead of workers like Watson collecting the needles, Erickson is urging everyone to call 911 to have a police officer collect them. It’s part of an aggressive plan to catalog exactly when and where the dirty needles are found.

“The more aggressive we are, the quicker we are going to solve the problem,” Erickson said. “We’re getting the word out to the people doing things they shouldn’t, that this will not be tolerated in Poulsbo. We are not tolerating this kind of behavior.”

That behavior is connected, in one way or another, to 80% of all other crime city-wide, according to police.

“It fuels property crime and that’s what you’re seeing,” said Deputy Police Chief Robert Wright. “It’s very prevalent and it’s very dangerous to just let it run its course.”

The needles aren’t just being found in public places. Joshua Ortiz found them at work a few weeks ago.

“We were closing the restaurant and I walked into the bathroom,” said Ortiz. “There was nothing there, I was there 10 minutes ago. When I go in there, and there’s two needles on the sink.”

Also part of the mayor’s plan is to install surveillance cameras in city parks to catch the drug users in the act. Plus she’s asking residents to snap photos of suspicious activity and email those to the city to this email address.

Eradicating heroin use in Poulsbo might be an uphill battle, but Erickson believes they’re already starting to see a difference.

“I think we’re already making a dent,” said Erickson. “I think the bad guys are already figuring out that Poulsbo means business and we’re not putting up with it.”

Erickson is also floating the idea of asking the voters to pass a tax increase to grow the police department even bigger.