Shocking increase in discarded drug items

Drugs paraphernalia
Drugs paraphernalia

Wigan Council were called out to pick up used needles off the streets on average more than once every two days last year.

New figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the shocking increase in the amount of times that council cleansing teams were called to deal with needles and sharp on public land.

Council crews attended 216 incidents of syringes in 2016 - an average rate of one call out every 1.7 days.

That number rose sharply from 166 call outs in 2015, and in 2014, the number was slightly higher at 171.

The total number of incidents creates an average of one clean up every 2.2 days over the past three years.

It is unclear how much it cost the council to retrieve the dirty needles, as the sharps collection service is part of a varied cleansing role.

The has been a number of shocking incidents of needles on the streets in recent years.

In March this year, a toddler had a close brush with a drug addict’s stash in Wigan town centre.

Mum Rebecca Collins spotted a discarded syringe, lighter and spoon in a telephone box in Standishgate, just seconds before her two-year-old went to pick them up.

Rebecca was left “ashamed and disgusted” following the close call.

The problem is often so bad that in April, a Wigan grandmother took matters into her own hands and collected dozens of dirty needles after discovering them on a family walk.

Lizzie Hagan found a section of Parsons Meadow in Poolstock littered with used hypodermics as she took a walk with her two young grandchildren.

The 57-year-old came across the “drugs haven” of spoons, needles and other paraphernalia which had been strewn across the ground.

She carefully removed the needles from the ground using dog waste bags, before reporting the scene to the police.

In February 2016, a stash of over 400 needles was found dumped on land off Coop Street in Scholes.

Council teams aim to pick up dumped needles on the same day they are reported, using pickers to pick the syringes up and put them in a sharps container which is sealed. They also have special gloves which prevent any needle stick injuries.

Paul Barton, Wigan Council’s assistant director for environmental services, understood the figures would concern some Wiganers,

He said: “We deal with reports of discarded syringes every week. It is encouraging that people are willing to report this issue to us, as we understand why any incident will be of concern to our residents.

He added: “Our cleansing teams are specially trained and equipped to deal with syringes and aim to pick them up the same day they are reported to us.

“We would urge people to report any concerns to us via our Report It app which gives us the exact location of the problem.”

A confidential needle exchange service is available at the Coops Building in Wigan, at 11 Dorning Street. This service provides free sterile injecting equipment, safe disposal of used needles, and advice on safer injecting.

Staff at the exchange can also assist with advice regarding blood borne viruses including HIV and Hepatitis B and C, and off pre and post-test advice and referral for treatment.

A number of pharmacies across the borough also provide a needle exchange service, a list of which can be found at wigan.gov.uk.