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Rantz: I visited Vancouver’s devastating, dangerous safe-injection neighborhood

(Patrick Kovarik, Pool via AP)

Seattle will get a safe injection site. Activists in and out of city hall do not care about the will of King County voters. They’re convinced this is a good idea. It’s not. It’s dangerous, it’s disturbing, and it took me 10 minutes in Vancouver to realize this.

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The vast majority of safe injection site proponents haven’t visited the Vancouver neighborhood that hosts Insite. They should. It’s frightening and has no place in Seattle.

I visited Vancouver for leg one of the MLS western conference semifinals. On a walk around the city before the game, I decided to visit the site of “North America’s first legal supervised injection site.”

It was about 9:45 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 29. The immediate area around East Hastings Street is a one-stop shop to feed your heroin addiction. I witnessed one heroin deal. It was done right in the open, without any concern. The exchange was quick but casual. Dozens of homeless people laid about, nearly lifeless, some staring down the street, a couple playing with mini-vaporizers, while others walked around like zombies — dazed and meandering.

Litter is everywhere. The blocks around Insite felt dangerous. Some tourists were harassed by the homeless. I was followed by one, who kept asking me why about a dozen people were lined up behind a truck. I didn’t know. I imagine it was an outreach organization handing out much-needed supplies.

There is no room in Seattle — or King County — for a safe injection site. It will kill businesses. It will make us unsafe. And it will keep people addicted to heroin. I also suspect it would normalize heroin dealing. Seattle city officials like Councilmember Mike O’Brien already want less enforcement on lawlessness, particularly as it relates to the homeless. If we effectively legalize heroin, how are we supposed to enforce drug dealing laws? If the argument is that safe injections sites are compassionate, then wouldn’t it be equally compassionate to allow them to purchase the heroin to use at the safe injection sites?

Safe injection sites stop the spread of diseases when you take used needles out of the equation. It also stops deadly overdoses. These are valid reasons to entertain the concept, but it’s not foolproof and is less effective than successfully treating the addiction. And proponents overstate the benefits.

These benefits hold true so long as people use the sites. They do not stop an overdose when the heroin addict is using in Northgate or Ballard or the University District, unable or unwilling to travel to the one or two safe injection sites in the city. Some will start camping out around the safe injection site, as they do around Insite. Which several blocks of Seattle will O’Brien or his colleagues give to addicts? I suppose they won’t set up shop in city hall, in the heart of Downtown Seattle where there are scores of people who would surely use this service.

It’s really easy for activists to support safe injection sites, not truly understanding what this will do to the neighborhood that hosts it. I don’t think most of these activists care to experience it. It’s an easy bit of virtue signaling to tell the world you support safe injection sites because you want to show how much compassion you claim to feel about those dealing with addiction. The problem is this kind of virtue signaling not just hurts the people you aim to help — after all, safe injection sites don’t treat the addiction — but you’ll be devastating neighborhoods in the process.

This would be a blight on any Seattle neighborhood. This part of Vancouver is a disaster and these people are in desperate need of help, not a safe space to shoot up, judgment-free. They need 100 percent subsidized on-demand treatment. No one should live like this and no city should tolerate it.

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