The NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) people are at it again. But a new study refutes their claims and shows that methadone clinics don’t attract crime.
The Good News
Crime Rates Aren’t Higher Around Methadone Clinics
In a well-designed study published online in Addiction, March 2, 2012 ahead of print, investigators compared data from a computer listing of all FBI reports of serious crimes, such as robbery, homicide, and sexual assault, in specific areas of Baltimore. The areas included 13 methadone treatment centers and three types of control locations: 13 convenience stores, 13 residential points, and 10 general medical hospitals. The study team found no significant increase in crime around methadone treatment centers (MTCs) or general hospitals. (The study period was January 1, 1999 through December 31, 2001. After collecting the data, the team spent several years developing the technology and analyzing the data before publishing the article.)
And—here’s something very interesting—investigators did find significantly higher crime counts close to convenience stores. Bottom line: Methadone clinic neighborhoods, unlike those of convenience stores, are not associated with a higher crime rate.
The authors note, ”Our finding that MTCs are not associated with increases in neighborhood crime addresses a major impediment to the establishment of new clinics, and should lead to greater availability of methadone maintenance treatment for the many persons who need it.”
Let’s hope the NIMBYs are paying attention.
Reference: Boyd SJ, Fang LJ, Medoff DR, Dixon LB, Gorelick DA. Use of a “microecologic technique” to study crime incidents around methadone maintenance treatment centers [published online ahead of print March 2, 2012]. Addiction. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2012.03872.x.
But Emotional Protests Persist
From Orange County, Florida: a methadone clinic that opened last month is the latest in a string of establishments “bringing crime to the neighborhood,” some residents complain. Locals told WFTV’s Drew Petrimoulx that pain clinics and pharmacies moving into the area are “attracting the wrong kind of people.” “There’s a lot more vagrancy.” A resident gave WFTV a photo of two people passed out at a bus stop; she said the pair had just left the new methadone clinic.
It’s not as if this was an elite section of Orange County to begin with. In fact, one resident asked why the neighborhood was picked for a new methadone clinic when the area already had so many problems.
Readers responding on the WFTV website echoed that opinion:
“Don’t make me laugh. That area has been horrible for a decade or more.”
“That area has been called heroin run for many years.”
“ . . . one is a fool to go near there.”
Another From Somers Point, New Jersey: Fear gripped residents when an 89-year-old woman was attacked and sexually assaulted in her home. A suspect was arrested, and the incident apparently is totally unrelated to the local methadone clinic that has been operating for 10 years. But that hasn’t calmed people. They’re upset and angry about the clinic. Staff writer Christopher Ramirez said residents are “fed up with problems in their neighborhood and are placing blame for recurring issues on a methadone clinic directly across from their homes.”
The City Council got creative and found a novel way to spur the methadone clinic to move: it introduced an ordinance to prohibit parking on the street bordering the clinic.
And lastly from Salem, Florida: the Zoning Board of Appeals last month unanimously rejected a permit request for a methadone clinic. SalemPatch.com says Community Substance Abuse Centers (CSAC) plans to appeal, raising alarm among residents.
The ZBA’s stated reasons for rejection: traffic concerns and the residential character of the area, which includes Witchcraft Heights. [The Salem name is linked with a rumored ghost population; some say Salem is “bursting with struggling spirits just waiting to spook you.” Maybe that’s part of the problem. www.ghostsofamerica.com.]
Any evidence of a rise in crime around existing clinics? Not that Salem Police Chief Paul Tucker is aware of. He should know, and he supports having a methadone clinic in Salem.
Sometimes Good Sense Prevails
As reported on the AT Forum website last November, a Warren, Maine methadone clinic won a NIMBY battle after a yearlong fight. Education, mediation, and lawsuit considerations triumphed over a classic NIMBY response based on emotions, and the community finally granted permits for an opioid treatment program.
(All sites accessed March 30, 2012.)
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