Discarded syringes found in Saanich parks are causing concern for some Greater Victoria residents.
Sooke mother Jayna Forgie said her 15-year-old son was pricked by a needle in Rutledge park on Monday. The teen took the syringe to nearby Mayfair Shopping Centre before heading to a doctor’s clinic and eventually, the Royal Jubilee Hospital for testing.
The odds of him contracting a disease or virus from the needle are low, health professionals told the family, but Forgie still posted on Facebook to warn others.
“I was quite scared and nervous and angry. It wasn’t something that was intentionally propped up … it was just discarded carelessly. Either way, it’s really concerning.”
Forgie sent messages to the District of Saanich asking for action.
“We need more frequent and thorough sweeping of parks, especially because we have such a high amount of homeless and drug use in our city … if that can’t be addressed then I think the residual effects need to be addressed.”
Society of Living Illicit Drug Users (SOLID) Outreach operations coordinator Fred Cameron said there is a lack of proper disposal sites in the region.
SOLID, which offers support, education and advocacy for people who use drugs within the City of Victoria, also offers a discarded syringe and supply pickup service. Saanich isn’t typically within the organization’s purview, but Cameron said it’s having to expand outreach, even as resources are stretched by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was much easier when everything was on Pandora, we had a few sites around town but the population was concentrated,” he said. “There’s a few places downtown where they have metal stands with enclosed sharps containers but there are not enough of them.”
Cameron challenged the popular narrative that syringes are used only by people with drug addictions.
“The amount of media focus there is on drug use, that’s what people are picturing when they see [needles],” he said, noting diabetes and many other conditions can require the use of syringes.
“We’re not even really giving them the opportunity to cooperate if we don’t have proper disposal around town.”
Saanich resident Christine Knox found two discarded syringes on her property in the Gorge-Tillicum area. She said her home is on a route frequented by pedestrians and – prior to the pandemic – children walking to school.
“Lots of kids are going through there every day,” she said. “Also my mom is visually impaired, if she was doing any work around our property she wouldn’t have been able to see them. So it’s a huge concern for us.”
Coun. Colin Plant said Saanich dispatched a crew to Rutledge park on Tuesday to sweep through it for any other discarded needles.
“There certainly is a heightened level of concern around this. We hope people behave appropriately and not put fellow neighbours, friends, citizens at risk,” he said.
In contrast, the Capital Regional District – of which Plant is board chair – has not had any reports of syringes found in its parks.
Anyone who finds a needle within Victoria can call SOLID at 250-298-9497. Callers are asked to supply their name, contact number, a date and the exact location of the discarded supplies.
Those outside Victoria can call or drop off discarded syringes at the SOLID office at 1056 North Park St. Guidelines for safe pickup can be found on the SOLID website.
Saanich will also pick discarded needles within the municipality. Residents can call the district at 250-475-5522.