250K used needles found on the ground in Vancouver last year
Thousands of used needles are being tossed on the ground in Metro Vancouver, often in places where children play.
Numbers obtained by CTV News from Vancouver Coastal Health show that nearly 140,000 needles were picked up off the ground in 2013. The next year, another 130,000 were reported. Last year, a staggering 250,000 were found.
"We've seen notable increases in inappropriately discarded needles in the area around Main and Hastings, where the removal of old SROs (single-room occupancy hotels) seems to have contributed to increased needle finds," Vancouver Coastal Health's Anna Marie D'Angelo said.
But the needles aren't just being found in areas where SROs were demolished.
Parents who take their children to a downtown Vancouver park say they’re frustrated and angry after used syringes were discovered next to an elementary school.
Nelson Park in the city’s West End is a popular place for people to enjoy the sunshine, but it’s also frequented by drug users.
Parent Sascha Blachford said he was picking up garbage when a woman ran over to him to say she had just picked up five used needles.
He says it’s a frequent issue in the area.
“We’ve taught our kids because we see them all the time. I’ve shown them needles in the bushes [and told them] never touch something like that,” he said.
Virginia Carlton said she’s had to speak to her children about what to do when they see a needle on the ground, because it’s happened to her before too.
“They know to call me over and we dispose of it properly together but we shouldn't have to do that,” she said.
With Lord Roberts Annex school connected to the park, extra precautions have been necessary.
Carlton said the public health nurse has been brought in to speak to the school about what to do.
“It’s a constant battle,” she said.
Some people are calling on the Vancouver Park Board to install disposal boxes for the needles but officials worry that they could be tampered with and that would lead to different problems.
"All our staff do carry the sharps containers on their trucks, but to put them in the park you could have an issue with people fishing needles out, damaging, burning them,” said Director of Operations Howard Normann.
“Things in our parks tend to disappear in those areas."
The board is studying what other cities have done to curb the problem, but for now they’re not taking any immediate action.
"Sometimes we have a rash of them and then they disappear for a while, it depends maybe who's moved into the neighbourhood,” Normann said.
Anyone in the City of Vancouver who finds a needle can call the Mobile Needle Van at 604-657-6561, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for rapid needle recovery from any public area.
With a reports from CTV Vancouver’s Penny Daflos, Sheila Scott and Scott Roberts
No needles today that I can find but lots of signs of drug use near the school (Which has kids from K-3) pic.twitter.com/JnKWRfLLbL— Sheila Scott (@Sheila_Scott) April 26, 2016