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Safe Injection Sites Save Lives and Don’t Hurt Communities But NYC Still Can’t Have Them

A new report puts NIMBY crime fears to bed, even as New York's safe injection sites face possible closure.

9:35 AM EST on November 14, 2023

(Hell Gate)

Since they opened, New York City's two safe injection sites in upper Manhattan have both saved lives and lowered crime in their surrounding areas, according to a new report from a leading medical journal. The report, coauthored by a former NYPD captain and published in JAMA, an off-shoot of the American Medical Association, found that 911 calls related to crime dipped by over 30 percent in the areas surrounding the sites, while 911 calls for medical emergencies decreased by more than half. Weapons arrests decreased by over 70 percent in the areas around the sites, while there was also a 74 percent decrease in drug arrests, as police ramped down enforcement around the injection centers. 

Even as arrests and crime reports dropped in the areas, neighbors were still not too pleased with what they saw—the study found 311 calls related to "drug activity" rose by over 100 percent near the sites. 

Brandon del Pozo, the former NYPD officer who was one of the authors on the study, told the Daily News that community concerns about crime weren't backed up by the statistics. 

"The decreases in drug enforcement were dramatic and impossible to miss, but they did not seem to affect crime or quality of life," del Pozo said. "The overdose prevention centers report a generally positive relationship with local police, and this study suggests the sites can be successfully managed through collaboration with police and harm reduction workers.”

Since opening in February 2021, the city's two safe injection sites have provided care in over 700 overdoses. While New York City Mayor Eric Adams has supported the programs and wants to see them expanded, Governor Kathy Hochul recently announced she would not allow any of the billions in state money from an opioid settlement to be used for overdose prevention centers, even after a state panel recommended money go to support them. Hochul said she wanted the money to go to places that would "withstand a legal challenge," referring to the Biden administration's opposition to the life-saving safe injection sites. 

This summer, Damian Williams, the U.S. Aatorney for the Southern District of New York, issued a warning to the City and OnPoint, the operators of the sites, of possible imminent legal action by the federal government to close down the sites, saying that the City and state allowing the operation of the only safe consumption sites in the country was "unacceptable," and that his office is "prepared to exercise all options—including enforcement—if this situation does not change in short order.”

In 2022, there were 3,026 overdose deaths in New York City, the highest total since the City began keeping records on overdoses in 2002. Given a proven solution, no one with power actually seems all that interested in doing anything to stop people from the dying. 

Here are some links to safely consume, regardless of what the government says: 

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