Santa Cruz Deploys Sifters to Clean Heroin Needles from Beaches

The city of Santa Cruz, California has been using "needle sifters" to comb city beaches in an effort to clear the beach of hazardous, discarded drug syringes.

The sand sifters head out to the beach early in the morning, before junior lifeguards report for work, reports Phil Gomez of NBC affiliate KSBW. The sifting effort is part of a broader effort to promote safety at the beach, including installing extra lighting and closing the beach at night.

"We're making sure that we have the night time patrols, maybe adding one more night patrol," Johnny Fonts of Take Back Santa Cruz told KSBW. "We're proposing to light the sea wall up along the base of the Dream Inn, and we're taking steps to actually hand sift the sand in the target zone, what I call the target zone, along the seawall, all along the perimeter of the beach."

After Fonts stepped on a used syringe at a Santa Cruz beach last month, he got involved with Take Back Santa Cruz, a grassroots organization fighting to keep the city safe from drugs, gangs, and abusive behavior.

The city is reportedly planning to purchase a second sifting machine next year to help comb harder-to-reach areas of the beach.

"We always look forward to hearing about additional plans to keep the sand clean," resident Christian Hamilton told KSBW.

Earlier this year, Seabright Beach in Santa Cruz was forced to close for nearly four hours after dozens of used syringes were found washed up on the shore.

"We have a drug problem in Santa Cruz County," city Supervisor John Leopold told KSBW in an earlier report. "The best way to get needles off the street is to get people off drugs. The county is working very hard to increase the number of treatment spaces, because there isn't enough for people to actually get treatment."


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