Two advocacy groups in the Moncton area say more supports are needed to help control what they say is a growing problem: the number of needles found in the region.
“I knew the drugs were there,” says Tammy Mollins, a volunteer with Needle Awareness Moncton. “I didn’t realize how bad it actually was.
“It’s a mess… One needle is too much on the street for somebody to find.”
The group — a needle pickup service — was formed a year ago, and Mollins says she wanted to get involved because of her grandchildren and her pets.
“Any little bit off the street is a help,” she says.
Cheryl Wood, a resident backing the push for a neighbourhood watch in Moncton’s old west end, says she discovered two needles on her property in two days.
“I came out to walk my dog and I noticed when I was walking down the sidewalk, there was a needle just under my step,” she says. “It looked like someone just sat down and decided to do what they do with needles.”
Wood called Needle Awareness to come pick up the needles and dispose of them.
She has started a new morning routine of walking around her property to make sure it’s clean before she lets her pets outside.
Wood has installed a security camera and a motion-sensing light but says she may have to take it to another level if the problem persists.
“My husband’s been wanting a fence for years,” Wood says. “That (was) not a priority, there’s other things we need to do… Now, it’s a priority.”
Members take calls throughout Greater Moncton, Salisbury and Petitcodiac. They pick up the needles using puncture-resistant gloves and dispose of them at a container disposal site. There are three of those in Moncton, at the Botsford and St. George Street fire stations and at Ensemble Moncton.
Isabelle LeBlanc, the communications director for the city, urges residents to call city staff at (506) 859-2643 if they spot needles.
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“Our parks staff are trained and equipped to pick-up needles during the course of their regular work,” she said in a statement emailed to Global News. “As of next week (we will confirm when), Needle Awareness will be taking on a greater role with respect to community pick-up. We expect this process will provide a better service to the public and deal with the issue in a timely fashion.”
Richard Hyslop, who started Needle Dogs Moncton, says more supports are needed to solve the problem.
“We need more housing for the homeless,” he says. “We need housing for people with addictions… maybe a needle service set up.”
But both Hyslop and Mollins say fingers are unfairly pointed at the homeless population, with Hyslop saying some homeless people have helped him pick up needles in the area.
Mollins agrees that more resources are needed.
“We need better mental health services, we need better addiction recovery services,” she says. “We need safe injection sites.”
In a previous interview with Global News regarding an increase in the crime severity index, Charles Leger, a city councillor and chair of the Codiac Regional Policing Authority, says growing city centres need help from all levels of government.
“We need more help, we need more resources with respect to drug treatment, methadone clinics, safe injection sites,” he said. “These are issues large cities have been fighting for a number of years and we are now seeing that growth.”
But the province says a safe injection site isn’t in the works, at least not now.
“As we monitor the impact of opioid use, safe consumption sites could be considered as potential solutions moving forward,” reads a statement from Bruce Macfarlane, a spokesperson with the Department of Health.