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The Everett ‘Tweakerville’ cam is raising the wrong kind of awareness

(File, KIRO 7)

The “tweaker cam” set up by an Everett business owner across from a now well-known stretch of Smith Avenue is drawing the wrong kind of attention to an issue the city is already acutely aware.

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A live feed on YouTube has become its own form of reality entertainment, with an anonymous comment section where everyone can be a comedian. One commenter said this of the YouTube feed:

“We need a full time camera guy to zoom in and out with the chat to make this the best reality show ever.”

Some people that turn up on camera apparently frequent the area enough to have earned nicknames on the “show.” “Caveman,” for example, was a hit Thursday afternoon as a constant 400 people or more watched “Tweakerville.”

The live stream can be almost hypnotizing. Watching people come and go from a canopy of tents while trying to determine what they are up to feeds into our inquisitive nature. But it’s not doing much more than that and is likely creating a negative assumption of all the people seen on cam — that they are criminal drug abusers up to no good.

The City of Everett and its police department know very well what’s going on. According to a statement released by Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson and Police Chief Dan Templeman, officers made 277 arrests along Smith Avenue between November 2015 and December 2016. During that time, officers seized 1,685 grams of heroin, 402 grams of meth, 75 grams of cocaine, pills, vehicles, weapons, and more than $66,000 in cash. There were nearly 3,000 hours of police overtime dedicated to the area.

Additionally, the city has added parking restrictions to discourage camping in vehicles, installed fencing and lighting under the nearby overpass, and has worked with business owners on crime prevention training and consultation, according to the statement.

The effort, however, has failed to change the behavior of those involved, as the mayor and chief admit.

“While our officers continue to make arrests, most of those arrested for drug offenses or other minor crimes are quickly released from jail.”

The average jail stay is 12 days. Then those arrested are back on the streets, engaging in the same behavior.

It should be obvious by this data that law enforcement can’t tackle this alone. The city needs to focus on intervention and feeding people into treatment programs — which it says it is.

“This is not a question of whether or not there is a problem on our streets,” the mayor and chief’s statement reads. “We all understand and acknowledge that we are experiencing an opioid epidemic, rising levels of homelessness and individuals with untreated mental illness on our streets – as are communities across the country. The question is, how do we respond constructively to those problems? What approach moves us toward a positive future for Everett?”

I can tell you what approach doesn’t move the City of Everett forward, one that involves a constant stream of nasty comments directed at people in need.

Maybe it’s time to take the advice of the mayor and use that energy for volunteer work.

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