EVERETT — Everett police have increased patrols, making dozens of arrests in an attempt to combat public drug use and the perception of an unsafe downtown.
In July, a new state law went into effect making it a misdemeanor to possess a controlled substance in public places, unless the drug was prescribed. The change was part of a bigger package of legislation known as the “Blake Fix,” in reference to a landmark state Supreme Court ruling known as the Blake decision, which temporarily struck down drug possession laws in the state.
Since mid-July, Everett police have increased their presence around the city through “emphasis patrols,” booking 84 people into the Snohomish County Jail for investigation of public drug use.
Another 13 were given citations, or a ticket, but were released.
The extra patrols began July 15. That month, police booked four people into the jail in downtown Everett for investigation of public drug use and referred one to prosecutors for charges, according to police. In August, that jumped to 48 public drug use bookings and 11 citations. So far in September, the have been 19 bookings and two citations.
A Daily Herald review of dozens of jail booking records showed the vast majority of those defendants usually spent two days or less in jail.
Trespassing and public drug use have been the most common citations given out by Everett officers on these patrols, police spokesperson Ora Hamel said.
These patrols are different from increased patrols in the city’s new “no sit, no lie” buffer zones. But they can still overlap, Hamel said.
Sitting or lying down in “no sit” zones is forbidden, as is giving out food, services or supplies without a permit. Violations are misdemeanors with a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $500.
The first 10-block zone was created in 2021 around Everett Gospel Mission on Smith Avenue. This year, two new zones were under a new authority granted to Mayor Cassie Franklin: roughly 68 acres of downtown Everett, plus about 300 acres around the Fred Meyer at 8530 Evergreen Way.
“The buffer zones were designated based on the high prevalence of incidents in those respective areas,” city spokesperson Simone Tarver said Thursday. “So you can understand we may see more police presence in those specific areas at different times.”
Officers patrolling in the “no sit” zones are focused on educating people about the new city law, Hamel said. Officers accompany a team of eight social workers who make contact with folks, offering them services or resources. Officers can switch to enforcement “when necessary.”
The drug emphasis patrols are led by the North Everett and South Everett Emphasis Details, known as NEED and SEED. These officers, working overtime, “move where they are most needed,” Hamel said.
NEED and SEED, are focused solely on enforcement, Hamel said. Social workers do not accompany them on patrols.
NEED, created in 2019, usually consists of two officers, Hamel said. SEED patrols, beginning last year, have two or more officers patrolling along Evergreen Way and Airport Road. More officers are needed in SEED because of south Everett’s sprawl, Hamel said. It also takes longer to get to the county jail.
“We are working on an alternative response program that will give us new options for how we respond to calls for service related to homelessness and behavioral health,” Tarver said. “But until then, police and our social workers teams are the options we have, and I know they’re doing the best they can to help people and keep our community safe.”