Hundreds of hypodermic needles were found by DPW workers on Jan. 9 at Clarke Park in North Reading. Police recovered the needles and other drug paraphernalia.
On Wednesday, a DPW employee noticed illegal trash dumping at Clarke Park and notified the police department. DPW employees found hundreds of hypodermic needles in the trash at the park. Police worked with the DPW and recovered the needles and other drug paraphernalia.
Due to the incident, police issued this advisory:
“Over the past six years, we’ve seen a significant increase in needles improperly disposed of on the side of the road and in public areas,” said Police Chief Michael Murphy. “It is a real health and safety issue. We are very concerned about a child or someone who is unaware of the danger, picking up one of these discarded contaminated needles.”
Police believe the increase in dirty syringes littering North Reading’s neighborhoods is a result of the state’s 2006 decision to legally allow people to buy and carry hypodermic needles without a prescription.
It was illegal to possess a hypodermic needle in Massachusetts until an act to prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C was adopted by the House and Senate. The idea was to combat the spreading of these diseases through shared needles by allowing anyone, including illegal drug users, to purchase clean needles.
However, the number of police incidents involving syringes recovered from public places has more than quadrupled since the change took effect in September 2006. Police believe changing the law devalued the street worth of syringes, making them much more accessible to the illicit drug user.
Most legal uses of syringes are properly disposed of in a safe manner. It is the use of syringes for illegal intravenous drug use that is the most concerning. Most illegal users will dispose of these syringes in public places to distance themselves from the illegal activity.
Needles discarded on the side of roads are difficult to detect. They may be from illegal drug users and could pose a health risk. Police are urging the public not to touch them. Don’t let your pets come into contact with them and don’t ignore them. It is important that anyone finding a needle in any public area contact the North Reading Police Department at 978-664-3131 for proper disposal.