Kent Police crack down on public drug use with special task force

Focus on several hotspots, including near intersection of 104th Avenue SE and SE 240th Street


Kent Police are cracking down on open drug use in town, especially at several known hotspots.

Police Chief Rafael Padilla told the City Council during his Dec. 12 public safety report that the department took action and made arrests in response to complaints from the community as well as to try to lower the number of lethal overdose cases, particularly from fentanyl.

A task force of plainclothes officers, patrol units, supervisors and city jail corrections staff focused in November to make arrests of people using drugs near the intersections of 104th Avenue SE and SE 240th Street, West Meeker Street and 64th Avenue South, 108th Avenue SE and SE 208th Street, and other areas.

“In the circumstance where arrests were not the right tool, we didn’t make arrests,” Padilla said. “In cases where the law needed to be enforced, we did so.”

In 2022, the Kent City Council adopted a new law to allow officers to arrest someone using drugs in public places or someone who throws drugs on the ground in a public spot. The law targets controlled substances such as methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl. The crime is considered a misdemeanor subject to a fine and jail time. In May 2023, the council adopted even tougher laws about arrests for drug possession and tied it into treatment options.

Officers made arrests for two felony drug cases, where the people reportedly had the amount of drugs needed for trafficking level prosecution, Padilla said.

“That’s where we want to focus,” he said.

Officers also made two arrests for investigation of possession (a misdemeanor), one felony suspect arrest, one felony arrest not drug related and five more for misdemeanors.

“As we stabilize our patrol staffing, you can count on we will doing more of this,” Padilla said.

Padilla said staff volunteered to work overtime on the special drug use enforcement task force.

“We want the Kent community to know we are taking this seriously,” he said. “Our businesses and main thoroughfares have really been impacted by this.”

As for those suffering substance abuse disorders, Padilla said he wants them to know treatment is available and officers want to connect them with services so they can get help.

“But if you use in public and violate laws, we will enforce the laws, it’s the choice of yours,” he said.

Padilla said a strong partnership with city prosecutors will defer cases for people even in the 11th hour of the court process.

“If they want treatment, they are going to get it,” he said.

The Kent Municipal Court has a community court program that helps people get connected with services to break their drug habit. Individuals can enter a drug treatment program rather than face prosecution.

“The initial data indicates that a lot of the people we are arresting are taking deferred prosecution and choosing to go into treatment,” Padilla said. “Let’s all pray and hope they are successful in that endeavor and we see people recovering from this horrific infliction.”

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