Maple Ridge’s Jesse Stretch displays one of the three needles he came across Tuesday morning in Horseman’s Park. Stretch said in the two months he’s been out picking up dirty needles

In need of collecting needles

Mayor says city needs support cleaning up.

For Jesse Stretch, picking up needles has become a part-time duty.

For the past two months, he’s been making regular patrols of areas where needles are found after encountering some in a park one day with his step children.

“For awhile there, it was getting ridiculous.”

Recently, he’s found fewer needles, although he picked up three on Tuesday in Horsemen’s Park.

Stretch, who recently organized a community safety rally in downtown Maple Ridge, estimates he’s picked up 300 needles in the past few months.

Hot spots of needle locations seem to move around the city. Nokai Park on 222nd Street and near Harry Hooge elementary are other locations where he’s found needles.

“It’s all over.”

He uses a pair of pincers and a dust pan and wears steal-toe boots so he doesn’t touch the needles.

In one week, he picked up 180 needles.

“I was just astounded.”

He’s not alone.

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read doesn’t like the number of needles that are ending up on the streets.

“The issue for us, there’s a reality that those end up on the ground,” she said.

Maple Ridge doesn’t have a needle exchange service.

The Purpose Society provides clean needles to drug users, but the driver of its health van quit at the beginning of this month.

The society has not yet found a replacement.

Read supports the harm reduction program, but said the city needs support cleaning up needles.

“I think there’s an accountability there that resides with the program that’s responsible for the distribution,” she added.

“We don’t want residents having to clean up needles. We find needles that still have drugs in them, still have blood in them. It’s unsafe for the public.”

The city continues to press its concerns with Fraser Health.

It is also working on creating a mapping system so that locations of needles can be disclosed to the public.

“For now, we need to keep the public safe and we’re acting in the area of clean up,” Read said.

City employees are regularly checking known hot spots, she added.

“It’s something we have to resolve quite urgently, in my opinion.”

While a search continues for a new outreach worker to provide clean needles to drug users, there hasn’t been a big jump demand for clean needles at Alouette Addictions Services.

Alouette gives out about 50,000 clean needles yearly to drug users as part of the province’s harm reduction program.

Annika Polegato said it’s difficult to tell if there is more demand now that the Purpose Society’s health van, which provided clean needles, condoms and other personal care items, is operating at reduced hours.

Distributing clean needles is an attempt at reducing disease transmission. But in order to get one, a user doesn’t have to give a dirty one in exchange.

It’s not a one-for-one system, said Erin Gibson with Fraser Health.

But most people want to do the right thing and bring in their used needles, she added.

Some cities have a needle return rate of 103 or 104 per cent, meaning more dirty needles are coming than being handed out.

Gibson didn’t know what the return rate was for Maple Ridge.

She said Fraser Health will work with agencies in Maple Ridge “to find the most appropriate solutions for Maple Ridge.”

That could include providing drop boxes for needles or drop off points outside buildings where people can easily leave used needles.

B.C. adopted the harm-reduction model of providing clean needles and other supplies to reduce spread of disease in 2002.

According to the city’s website, parks staff, as part of their regular work, do look for and dispose of needles in public park areas.

Parents should always do a quick look around a playground when they first arrive, the city suggests.

• Anyone who finds a needle should not pick it up. Instead, call the city’s switchboard at 604-463-5221. In the evening, call 604-463-9581.

 

Just Posted

Dewdney Trunk Road closed, vehicle crashes

Happened in early evening, injuries unknown

Court supports Maple Ridge role in tent city

Rejects Pivot application to allow people to return

City video updates Maple Ridge Leisure Centre re-do

Rusty support columns delaying project by a few months

Maple Ridge councillor back at work

Duncan away because of car accident

Seniors conquer the arctic

Pitt Meadows guide led 35-day trek

VIDEO: Wet weather kicks off Lower Mainland toad migration

Thousands of small western toads were making the trek from pond to woods

Pamela Anderson adds star power to B.C. Green Party town hall

Celebrity attended Nanaimo meeting with representatives from U.S.-based environmental group

Olympic softball qualifier gets $150K boost from provincial government

2019 Americas Qualifier to be held in Surrey from Aug. 25-Sept. 1

Gas price inquiry questions Trans Mountain capacity, company denies collusion

The first of up to four days of oral hearings in the inquiry continue in Vancouver

Serious police incident unfolding at Sts’ailes near Agassiz

Small reserve near Agassiz surrounded by police vehicles, helicopter, ERT

‘Benzos’ and fentanyl a deadly cocktail causing a growing concern on B.C. streets

Overdoses caused by benzodiazepines can’t be reversed with opioid-overdose antidote naloxone

RCMP release sketch of suspect in SFU assault, appeal to witnesses who helped woman

The RCMP want to talk to two women who helped the victim after she got to the parking lot

Will you be celebrating national hotdog day with any of these crazy flavours?

The popularity of hotdogs spans generations, cultures

Former home of accused Penticton shooter vandalized

Ex-wife of man who is accused of murdering four people had her house vandalized

Most Read