The week was only a day old and already Jesse Stretch had made a significant haul.
Stretch has taken it upon himself to pick up used drug needles from around Maple Ridge, and armed with gloves, steel-toed boots and a grabbing tool, he makes regular patrols of parks and streets.
But in a few minutes on a Monday, Stretch was rewarded by being able to remove several dozen needles at a time.
Someone had dumped a pile of garbage and used needles and their wrappers behind a row of stores along Lougheed Highway at 216th Street.
One of the members of the Maple Ridge Tax Payers Against Tent City told him about the most recent hazard.
“They’re all used,” said Stretch. “This s— is everywhere. It never ceases to amaze me where we find this.”
One of the members of the group took the garbage away, while Stretch took the needles, about 60 of them, which he planned to deliver to the Purpose Society, which picks up needles weekly in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
The society has given him several sharps boxes so he can storm them safely.
Stretch has been doing the chore for about two months and said the number of needles he finds in a day varies.
“Some days I may only find one, but two days later I will find seven or so at the same location.”
The problem moves around from place to place, and the most recent dump included an old mattress.
What worries him is that the number of protective caps and wrappers far exceeded the number of needles.
“So those needles are out there somewhere,” he said.
“I just hope that the city or the Purpose Society has recovered them or they are at least somewhere where they can’t harm the general public.”
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read has said she supports the province’s harm-reduction programs that provides clean needles to cut the spread of disease.
But residents shouldn’t have to go around picking up used needles.
“We need better support in the clean up.”