Langley City grapples with problem of discarded needles

Douglas Park area resident says he is frustrated by lack of action from police, council

The second of two needle depository box resident John Woodford found near Douglas Park Elementary School last month.

A depository box full of used needles, found discarded beside Douglas Park Elementary School on Sept. 29, has neighbourhood resident John Woodford fed up.

“This needs to stop and we the people of this City need to make a moral stand that change needs to happen,” Woodford wrote on his Facebook page, City of Langley BC Crime Watch 24/7.

“The excuse that this is not a criminal act is ridiculous and the Crown, Judges, RCMP and elected officials need to get there [sic] act together.”

This was the second bright yellow needle depository box found at the school last month.  The first, discovered on Sept. 1, was found on the grass inside the schoolyard, Woodford said.

The second, which appears to be inside a clear plastic container, was found around 10 a.m. on the sidewalk that runs between the elementary school and the water park.

The same morning, RCMP and paramedics were called out to an overdose at Douglas Park.

Woodward watched the commotion, and said the man was at the corner of the Douglas Park tennis court, not far from where the depository box was found.

He said he also saw students at Douglas Park Elementary outside during recess, watching the scene.

RCMP later confirmed the man survived.

After living in Langley City for three years, Woodford said he’s tired of the drug use in his neighbourhood.

“We’ve done more investigative work as citizens than the police have,” he said.

Numerous complaints from citizens, including Woodford, had councillor Dave Hall calling for more action during council’s meeting on Sept. 14.

Hall made a motion to have staff investigate the pros, cons and best practice harm reduction strategies of needle depositories and exchanges.

“Citizens have, on a regular basis, complained or expressed their concerns about leftover needles in a variety of locations around the City,” Hall said.

“Should there be an exchange? Should there be some kind of better education?”

So far in 2015, there have been 14 calls to the City from members of the public and staff about used needles discarded in parks, washrooms and homeless camps, CAO Francis Cheung told The Times.

This comes after the City’s installation of eight depository boxes inside washrooms at Douglas Park, Douglas Recreation Centre and Rotary Centennial Park.

They have two more left to install, and plan to add boxes at City Hall and the new Timms Community Centre.

The enclosures in which the boxes are placed are also almost impossible to break into, Cheung said.

The box found at Douglas Park Elementary on Sept. 29 is not one of the City’s, he confirmed to The Times.

Some business have also started to address the issue themselves, Councillor Gayle Martin said.

Places like Cascades Casino now have depository boxes in their washrooms.

Although the concept of sharps depositories was welcomed by council, a needle exchange was not.

“I don’t think an exchange is going to make any difference,” Martin said.

“They’re still going to shoot-up in the flood plain, and (if) the needle exchange is somewhere on Fraser Highway, it’s not like they’re going to bring the needle down to Fraser Highway and exchange it.

“They’re just going to shoot-up and discard the needles on the ground.”

It also does not solve the larger issues behind drug addiction, councillor Val van den Broek added.

“We can provide them (drug users) more facilities for treatment,” she suggested. “And more facilities to get them off the street in the first place and get them the help they need before they end up on the streets and end up being homeless — which, we’re not doing a very good job of right now.

“And, to me, if we’re going to enact a needle exchange, it’s enabling them to do what they need to do, and not solving the problem.

“We need to push the provincial government more for some funding for mental health and drug related issues.”

Mayor Ted Schaffer agreed.

“It’s time for the province to step up,” he said.

Because City staff are already looking into the issue, Hall’s motion was defeated.

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