Poulsbo police turn to social media to fight town's heroin problem

POULSBO, Wash. -- Poulsbo Police are taking their fight against heroin to social media. Police Chief Al Townsend recently published a photo on Twitter depicting thousands of hypodermic needles, all of them used, many of them still dripping with heroin.

"We have a drug issue here," says Poulsbo's Deputy Chief Robert Wright. "It's anywhere or everywhere."

The department hopes the photo and others like them will shed light on a growing problem of needles and drug users taking over city parks and alleyways.

I strolled through Legion Park along Poulsbo's waterfront and, right next to the swing set and merry-go-round, found numerous pieces of tin foil used to cook heroin and several Q-tips used to soak the heroin up into a syringe.

"I see a lot of it -- it's unbelievable the amount I see," said Steve Weaver, a social services counselor. He says he started to see a spike in heroin use among local teenagers six months ago. Today, he says it feels out of control.

Others say they're shocked at how common place heroin has become. Andrea Rowe, who manages a convenience store in downtown Poulsbo, says a customer recently walked into her store straight from a local hospital. She says he was still wearing his hospital I.D. bracelet and explained to her he overdosed on heroin just two days earlier. An employee at another store across the street says she recently used a public restroom in town and found several used needles strewn across the floor.

Police say the increase in drug use is also responsible for 80 percent of home and commercial burglaries in town. Deputy Chief Wright says they're patrolling the city's parks more often, but they say there's no clearly proven plan to completely curtail drug use. Recent budget cuts and staff reductions forced the city to quit a regional drug task force.

But by turning to social media, they're hoping to get more people to be aware of what's happening.