Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell on Tuesday traced the Boston Police Department's recent controversial sweep in the South End area known as "Methadone Mile" back to the 2014 closing of the Long Island Bridge, and emphasized the city's lack of investment in adequate services to substitute what was lost after the closing.

“I think whatever your reaction is to whatever happened during the sweep, the question is, Why did we let it get that far?” Campbell said during an interview with Boston Public Radio. “We had been hearing [concerns] for quite some time from residents, from folks in the schools in the area, from businesses that ultimately had to shut down around the illicit activity that was happening, and then suddenly we respond in a very aggressive manner and a reactive way.”

The sweep, which police called "Operation Clean Sweep," was a multi-day series of arrests conducted in the South End area sometimes called "Methadone Mile" for the amount of drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers located there, which sparked widespread criticism.

City Councilor Michelle Wu called it “cruelty.” Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said the sweep’s indiscriminate nature may have resulted in the arrests of people who had no intent to distribute drugs, but were simply homeless or in possession of drugs. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh defended the sweep, and said last week that it was sometimes necessary to utilize police force to “send a message to [drug dealers]” not to return to the area.

Campbell said she’s sympathetic to the safety concerns raised by residents in the South End, and said her own district has struggled with many of the same issues. She also said she believes that the opioid crisis should be treated as a public health issue instead of a criminal justice one. While Campbell acknowledged a need for public safety, she emphasized that the problems "Operation Clean Sweep" hoped to address began with the closing of the Long Island Bridge five years ago.

Long Island was host to multiple programs and institutions that housed and served more than 700 individuals suffering from addiction or seeking shelter. When the bridge to the island closed, Boston struggled to rebuild the services offered. Campbell said this vacuum created the conditions that currently exist on “Methadone Mile.”

“There were tons of services provided on the island. So, now when you close the island and access to those services, you’re going to have an influx of people mainly coming back to ... that area,” Campbell said.

Campbell praised Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George, her colleague on the council, for her work to address the opioid epidemic in Boston. Essaibi-George convened a working session of the city council and local elected officials to discuss how to increase funding for treatment centers, on the ground treatment opportunities and to discuss the findings of a recent trip local officials took to Canada to observe safe consumption sites.

Ultimately, Campbell said she hopes that the city can work together with members of the community to increase access to treatment services, while also alleviating the safety concerns of the city’s residents.

“It’s this balancing of public safety and public health ... and the public health response has to be robust, has to be comprehensive and has to involve several stakeholders, and not just the city of Boston,” Campbell said.