MARYSVILLE, Wash. — Marysville has enacted a law that allows officers to arrest someone for a first offense of using drugs in a public place.
The move is in reaction to more lenient laws put in place by the state legislature.
"The one thing that drives crime is drug addiction," says Marysville Police Sgt. Derek Carlile. "Everybody thinks drugs are legal now so they can do drugs wherever they want."
It’s the most frustrating part of the job for Carlile, a 14-year police veteran.
So, Marysville police officers are getting tough on drug users, once again.
Recent changes to state laws have handcuffed police when it comes to drug offenses. A state law requires police to offer treatment at least two times before arresting someone for using drugs in public.
But Marysville has now passed a local law making a first offense a misdemeanor punishable by jail time. Sgt. Carlile made the new law known to a person he caught smoking fentanyl in his car.
"Just so you know there’s a new law that Marysville has enacted that if you’re caught with drugs like this you actually get criminally charged and can go to jail now," he told the man.
The new law targets public bathrooms, bus stops, parks – all of which are problem areas for police.
The move comes amidst a growing school of thought that putting users in jail hasn’t helped cure America’s addiction crisis.
But Marysville Police Chief Erik Scairpon says users need to know there are consequences for their actions.
"We’re not trying to arrest ourselves out of a drug epidemic," Scairpon explains, "but we do know when people are in our criminal justice system that it gives them an incentive to want to get better."
While there is much debate about the tactic, addiction outreach worker Mike Kersey agrees with Scairpon.
He says the threat of five years in prison set him straight 23 years ago.
"Something has got to change," Kersey says. "For me, it took that extra nudge from a judge and looking at jail time to get clean and sober. Holding me accountable with a probation officer is what I needed."
Marysville police can still use their individual discretion when it comes to deciding whether to arrest someone.
As was the case with the man in the car, Sgt. Carlile gave him a referral for treatment.
If there is a next time he’ll most likely go to jail.
"I’m not gonna arrest you today even though I should be cause you’re clearly using," Carlile told him. "You still have a lot of life left. Get clean and get your family back."