Used needles found littered in elementary school playground
Park rangers are increasing patrols at an elementary school playground in downtown Vancouver that was found littered with used needles this week.
Tricia Dong said she was outraged to find the needles and other drug paraphernalia outside Crosstown Elementary School while walking her dog Monday morning.
Pictures she took show the needles just steps away from children's playground equipment.
"This shouldn't be happening," Dong said. "Who knows if anything's laced with fentanyl or whatever else."
She shared the images on social media in the hopes of putting pressure on officials to address the problem, and on Thursday the Vancouver Park Board confirmed it is upping supervision in the area.
Rangers and park staff will be on hand from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily going forward, the board said.
"[Rangers] will be patrolling the park, seeing what's going on, asking people to be respectful of the users in the park," parks director Howard Normann said. "The main focus is trying to make sure the park is safe for everybody."
It's a diverse neighbourhood that presents a unique set of challenges, Normann added. Crosstown just opened up in the spring beside Andy Livingstone Park, in an area where high-rise condos tower over a community in the grips of the overdose crisis, and many people don't even realize the school is there.
"If people don't know there's a school here and they're used to their old habits, we need to change those habits. And we need to make them aware that this is not the place to bring needles and shoot up," Normann said.
Some parents with children at Crosstown told CTV News they understand the issues facing the area, and appreciate the school using the incident as a teaching opportunity.
"That comes with the territory, it seems to me, with where the school's located," said Courtney Booker, who has a Grade 1 student at Crosstown.
"It's not something that can just be eradicated overnight, it has to be dealt with at the social level, in terms of social programs. It's good to educate the kids about what those sorts of things are, which they've been doing."
There are already six drop boxes in the park where drug users can safely discard dirty needles, though it's clear not everyone is using them.
Dong said she's not sure whether increased patrols will make a difference, but she's trying to be optimistic.
"Hopefully this will actually be a start of the change," she said.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Ben Miljure