Hardly a week goes by without someone posting a warning on social media about used needles being found in Trail – whether it be at a local park, on a street, or on a well-used or out-of-the-way walking path.
The most important question is, “What should a person do when they spot a needle?”
Simply put, don’t touch it.
Call the police to come and properly dispose of it.
The ugly truth that Trail has not skirted the problem of dirty needles left in public places, surfaced again this week after a West Trail resident found six used needles while walking the family pet. The uncapped needles were tossed and partially hidden in long grass – fortunately the person and dog were not pricked.
The Trail Times called the detachment to ask if these incidents are reported, and what a resident should do in these cases.
“We do get called on this,” RCMP Cpl. Devon Reid replied, noting a report was filed on the six needles found this week.
“If somebody calls and says they found used needles in a park, we all recognize it as drug paraphernalia. Our policy is that we go and pick those up and destroy them because the needles are obviously a health hazard – we take them and dispose of them properly in a sharps container.”
And that’s where the investigation usually ends.
“The problem being, that it is almost impossible to investigate any further beyond that,” Reid explained, clarifying that fingerprints or DNA on discarded needles wouldn’t hold up as evidence in court. “So really, we seize them and destroy them for public safety.”
The biggest risk with a dirty needle, of course, is coming into contact with a pathogen and/or drug residue.
“Absolutely do not pick it up,” the officer stressed. “We do not want anyone getting sick by touching somebody’s used needles with blood – or anything else – on it.”
Calling the police can end up being useful in another way, however.
“We do not mind getting these calls because sometimes, not always, it can show a pattern and maybe it can change the way we do our patrols,” Reid said. “So if we are always finding needles in the same park, then maybe we are going to have an officer walk through that park every night just to see what is going on there – it can help us tailor our patrols to where the problem areas are.”
Interior Health (IH) has specific instructions on what to do if a discarded needle is found.
The IH harm reduction team advises the following:
1. Use a rigid puncture-proof container with a secure lid. Remove the lid and place the container on the ground beside the needle. Do not break or recap the needle.
2. Pick up the needle by the centre of the syringe barrel with care. Use work or latex gloves, or tongs, if available. Always point the sharp end of the needle down and away from you.
3. Put the needle in the container, sharp-end first, and secure the lid. While doing this step, the container should be on the ground; do not hold it in your hand.
4. Remove gloves and wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
5. Drop off the sealed container at a local health unit, harm reduction program, or community drop box.