Differing opinions on decriminalization of possession, sale of hypodermic needles

Governor Kathy Hochul passed a legislative packaged aimed at combating the opioid crisis. Some, who've spent their entire careers in the trenches of the war on drugs, say it will might actually make things worse.

Posted: Oct 19, 2021 5:48 PM

Governor Kathy Hochul passed a legislative packaged aimed at combating the opioid crisis. Some, who've spent their entire careers in the trenches of the war on drugs, say it will might actually make things worse.

"Making it easier to do drugs does not help," says Boonville Police Officer-in-Charge, Fred Robenski, who is also a Camden Police Officer. Robenski spent most of his career fighting the war on drugs; 23 years as a Rome Police Officer, 12 years assigned to the Oneida County Drug Task Force, Madison County Sheriff's Department drug unit, and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) Task Force for the Northern District of New York, where he worked with the FBI and federal organized crime drug enforcement task forces. He's referring to the recent decriminalization of the possession and sale of hypodermic needles.

Treatment experts call it "harm reduction", and some acknowledge it presents some unsavory choices.

"It seems like a very odd thing to say, 'I'm gonna give somebody a positive, healthier choice to use drugs,'" says Cassandra Sheets, CEO of The Center for Family Life and Recovery. "If we can help them stay alive, we've got a good chance at getting them to a place where they can be healthier."

Robenski says what's intended to be a tool, feels more like a hindrance.

"It seems every year there's more and more stumbling blocks put in our way. Our hands are tied. We're chained to a pole. It's becoming impossible to fight the war on drugs," says the veteran officer, who, in 2019, was finding discarded hypodermic needles very frequently in the village of Camden-a problem he thinks will be made worse by decriminalization.

"They're going to be found everywhere," says Robenski. "They'll be discarded everywhere. You'll find them in parks like this, you'll find them everywhere."

The Oneida County District Attorney's Office doesn't expect the new law will have much effect on what they do.

"In 2018 in the city of Utica, there were 11 arrests for possession of a hypodermic instrument. In 2019, there were 14 arrests for hypodermic instrument charge, in 2020, there was zero, in 2021, there was one," says Prosecutor, Grant Garramone.

As someone who's spent his professional career pulling people back from the clutches of addiction, Officer Robenski can't get his mind around it, on principle, or, in practice.

"Legalizing the very implements that are used to ingest the drugs. Common sense would dictate that we are not going in the right direction," says Officer Robenski.

CEO, Sheets, says it's not always a straightforward battle, but a twisting and turning path, which she hopes will ultimately lead to the desired goal.

"If you look at harm reduction in its truest form, you're really meeting the person where they're at, completely where they're at, even in their addiction, and if there's a way to put some form of positive, healthier choices at that moment there, helps you to be able to maybe get more give them maybe more empowerment to be making those positive choices," says Sheets.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2750327

Reported Deaths: 57643
CountyCasesDeaths
Kings35124610979
Queens32804610423
Suffolk2574083694
Nassau2276543336
Bronx2139066811
New York1776774667
Westchester1487652356
Erie1266112064
Monroe989361257
Richmond932281974
Orange62677944
Onondaga60114819
Rockland55730783
Dutchess38218513
Albany34764416
Oneida33606647
Niagara29218421
Broome28549436
Saratoga25167228
Schenectady19569245
Ulster19260293
Rensselaer17633195
Chautauqua15247197
Oswego14409135
Putnam13249101
St. Lawrence13072144
Chemung13004176
Steuben12713193
Ontario11866119
Jefferson11567108
Wayne10448105
Cattaraugus10176163
Cayuga9850113
Sullivan975690
Genesee8795145
Herkimer8477143
Clinton821848
Fulton7939115
Madison7504109
Tompkins750161
Warren748896
Livingston732777
Montgomery7287162
Washington684180
Tioga645573
Cortland613489
Allegany6080122
Columbia5782115
Chenango562897
Orleans561796
Franklin552426
Otsego546666
Wyoming540367
Greene500190
Delaware450552
Lewis426040
Seneca331168
Essex303538
Schoharie274624
Yates202334
Schuyler197720
Hamilton5193
Unassigned1452
Out of NY0340
Utica
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 30°
Oneonta
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 29°
Herkimer
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 30°
Old Forge
Mostly Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 27° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: 30°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
2022 WKTV Golf Card only $99.99
Game Day Deals - New Deals Each Week
Stuff the Bus Locations
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve