Arlington law enforcement officials are launching a program to help people with addictions get help without jail time.
“Operation Safe Station” allows the Office of the Magistrate to waive charges on people with an addiction who turn themselves and their drugs in, and ask for help.
“Forgoing a prosecution and connecting individuals to treatment professionals is a first step in fighting this pernicious epidemic,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos in a statement Tuesday.
The program is the latest effort combatting the opioid crisis after the county saw a 245 percent increase in patients seeking treatment for opioid addiction between 2015 and 2017.
Operation Safe Station will refer participating people to “support groups, outpatient office based opioid treatment programs, Methadone programs, and when appropriate, residential treatment” per the description on the county’s website.
The program is a joint creation of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Arlington County Police, and Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services (DHS).
In a Tuesday press release, Chief of Police Jay Farr, DHS Director Anita Friedman, and Sheriff Beth Arthur praised Operation Safe Station for “removing barriers” preventing people from seeking help with their addictions.
However, the program does not accept people who:
- Have outstanding arrest warrants
- Have been convicted of giving, selling, or distributing drugs, or convicted of doing so with the intent to manufacture
- Are under 18 years old and don’t have a guardian with them
- Are determined to be a threat to program staff by police
Those who do not meet these criteria still face arrest if they turn themselves in with controlled substances at the Magistrate’s Office.
Operation Safe Station participants must also agree to a search and sign an agreement committing themselves to the program.
The program’s announcement comes several months into Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos’ campaign for re-election. Challenger Parisa Tafti has criticized the prosecutor for being slow to implement criminal justice reform measures like eliminating cash bail.
Stamos has defended her record earlier this week by referencing success of her “Second Chance” program she says diverted 500 minors struggling with addict from court since its start in 2011 as well as a Drug Court program.