City seeing big spike in castoff needle numbers

Discarded needles are becoming an increasing problem in the downtown Duncan area.

  • Mar. 2, 2016 10:00 a.m.

ROBERT BARRON CITIZEN

Discarded needles are becoming an increasing problem in the downtown Duncan area.

The city’s public works department has sent a memo to businesses downtown that staff have been encountering a lot of discarded needles in the area that are being left in garbage cans, public washrooms, parks, trails and other sites.

The memo stated that the number of discarded needles being found in the area is up to approximately two dozen a month, a dramatic increase from just six months ago.

Cpl. Krista Hobday, a spokeswoman for the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP, acknowledged there has been an increase in discarded needles across the region.

She said it’s likely that most of the needles were used to inject illegal drugs, like heroin, cocaine and crystal meth, directly into people’s bloodstreams.

Hobday said it’s possible that people can catch diseases from these needles if they prick themselves, and emphasized that they must be disposed of properly.

“The City of Duncan has a number of needle dropoff boxes in the downtown area, so we’re pleased that something is being done,” she said.

“From a policing perspective, we don’t like having to deal with people that have ‘sharps’ in their possession for fear of getting pricked by a needle and getting infected ourselves.”

Karen Robertson, Duncan’s head of corporate affairs, confirmed that the city has needle dropoff boxes next to the public washrooms at the Duncan Train Station and Centennial Park.

But she said people should be careful if they come across discarded needles and want to place them in the drop boxes.

Robertson said that, during business days, people can call the city if they don’t want to touch the needles and staff will pick up and dispose of the needles using tongs and protective gloves.

“It’s a courtesy that we provide in some of these cases,” she said.

“Discarded needles should never be tossed into the regular garbage because it puts city sanitation staff at serious risk of being pricked and possible infected.”

Robertson said the city, Island Health and the RCMP have begun discussions on what can be done to help deal with the issue.