City’s Death by Drugs

Is Sacramento dying? We see it every day

By Karen Margareta
June 2019

As a wife and working mom whose family lives in Land Park, I am thankful Cecily Hastings shed light on the drugs and homeless problems in our city with her column, “Is Sacramento Dying?”

It’s clear our city, county and state leaders are not willing to do anything but exacerbate the situation.

The roots of the crisis are not homelessness itself, but drugs. Sacramento has a drug crisis, not a homeless crisis. We have people whose addictions have caused mental illness. They can’t make decisions for themselves. So they live on the street.

Drug-addicted transients who choose to be homeless are taking over our neighborhood. They camp under the W-X freeway. How did this happen? It wasn’t this way 23 or 15 or even 10 years ago.

We started to notice a difference after 2014, when California voters approved Proposition 47. The initiative was marketed as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.” The pitch was, let’s turn many theft and drug felonies into misdemeanors, not arrest these criminals, keep them out of jail and give the money we save to schools. Who thought this was a good idea? And how much money has been given to schools?

Thefts under $950 are now considered misdemeanors. That means on a daily basis, we have drug-addicted criminals stealing from our porches, breaking into our cars, walking into our grocery and convenient stores, and taking what they want because they know the police won’t do anything about it.

Why? Mayor Darrell Steinberg and City Manager Howard Chan influence police priorities. And our leaders have made it clear that ordinances dealing with drug use, camping, urinating in public, setting campfires in the street, panhandling and prostitution are not police priorities.

Drive along the streets under the W-X freeway. Drugs are out of control. You would think Mayor Steinberg would take Measure U money and provide more for public safety. Nope, he wants to bring development and new business to Sacramento.

 

My compassion has run out. It’s tuned to anger. I don’t feel safe in my neighborhood. I don’t feel heard.

It wasn’t always this way. I used to give handouts to homeless people who looked sick or had children or a dog. Then I realized I was naïve. The money I handed out went to buy drugs. Evidence was everywhere.

Many times, I’ve been in a neighborhood parking lot and found dozens of used needles. I’ve seen people passed out in the streets with needles in their arms and legs in desperate need of medical attention. When I wrote to our city leaders, they responded, “These people are just down on their luck. All they need are homes and then this will all go away.” No, it won’t.

I went to City Council meetings to describe the situation. Homeless advocates harassed me, yelling, “They were there first.” At one council meeting, an audience member threatened me for speaking out. I needed a police escort to my car. I shared my concerns with Mayor Steinberg. He wrote back and said it would never happen again. I wish I could believe him.

With my neighbors, I patrol the streets and report things that aren’t right. I phone when I see drug dealing and illegal camping. And I donate to Loaves & Fishes and the food shelters. We are a family that gives back to our city. We are a pro-police family. We support our officers as they try to figure out how to manage this mess.

Here is what our family sees on a daily basis: A heroin addict who has lived at 16th and Broadway for more than three years. A sex offender who panhandles in front of Taco Bell where kids go through the drive-thru. A man, his face tattooed, who lives on the streets and sells drugs. A man called “The Collector” who scavenges and steals and uses the proceeds to buy drugs.

I see these gentlemen on a regular basis. I know their names. They have been offered services many times. They always refuse. They are not hard-luck people who need a home. They need jail and rehabilitation. They choose to be this way. They are not part of a homeless crisis. They are a drug crisis.

Karen Margareta and her family have lived in Land Park for 23 years.

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