Used syringes and needles, as well as drug paraphernalia are being regularly and indiscriminately dumped in the Waterside, according to the PSNI.
In the past fortnight over 20 syringes as well as evidence of drug use involving narcotics have turned up at bonfire sites, on street corners and alleyways across the Waterside urban area, posing a serious health risk, particularly to children and young people.
Of particular concern to the police is the quantity of syringes, with needles still attached, which have been dumped in plain sight, without regard for human safety. Some of those syringes are accompanied by materials quite obviously associated with illegal drug taking, while other dumped items include prescription drugs like brand name painkillers in large enough quantities to seriously harm or even kill a small child mistaking them for sweets.
Condemning those responsible, Sergeant Robin Young, of the Waterside Urban Neighbourhood Policing Team, said the haul, pictured here, was just some of the items which had been found in the past two weeks while he and his officers were on patrol.
Other items, however, had come to police attention after community workers had been in touch to say they had found items left at the sites for bonfires being built as part of the annual Relief of Derry celebrations.
“The stuff you see here is what we have found in the Waterside area, dumped at bonfire site, sometimes in back alleyways, dumped on the corner of housing estates. People have phoned in to say that they have found items and our concern and, obviously, their concern is about promoting safety,” he said.
Pointing to blister packs of painkillers and other prescription drugs, Sgt Young said they had been found next to a bonfire and appeared as if they had been deliberately left there for burning, while some of the needles were found in the Clooney area on the grass where children might play:
“Some of the other items, like this medication while os me of the other items, including lotions and prescription creams for serious skin conditions, were found in an alleyway not far from Waterside PSNI station. Some of the items, like daktarin, are for use by someone with a serious skin complaint and we have no way of knowing whether or not that skin complaint is infectious and if that complaint could be spread to someone simply by handling these bottles.
“They were dumped among clothing and other rubbish. It has us gravely concerned,” he said, continuing: “One of our main concerns would be that there are obvious hygiene issues. This swab is quite obviously blood-soaked and there is great concern about children and young people coming into contact with this stuff. We have found what is on the table in front of me just in the last couple of weeks. Certainly in the run-up to the bonfires we have found that some of this stuff has been found in the area of bonfires and have been left as if they are for burning, but this has continued even after the 11th night and the 12th of July.”
He said the PSNI had tried to pursue any names they have found on the cover of the prescription medication or on documents found in among the items: “Some of our enquiries have taken us to pharmacies in the Belfast area, yet we have found that the products have been dumped here. Another issue we have is that some of the products are a couple of years old so at the very least they are out of date never mind being dangerous drugs.”
Sgt Young said PSNI were now making enquiries with pharmacies that they had identified to find out who were still on their books, and particularly if there were particular names involved.
“We are trying to trace these items back from who got them to who took them and dumped them,” he said.
Turning his attention to the sharps disposal boxes which have been found, Sgt Young said all of them were full of needles, as well as other associated items, including packaging and swabs: “This indicates to us that somebody knows that these needles are dangerous and obviously, when they are in their own home they are using them. But these have been passed on to someone who does not care where they are dumped. We are dealing with a ‘not in my back yard’ mentality here.
“It is quite easy to open up these disposal boxes, so if a child finds something like this,” he said, lifting an intact box, “which looks a bit strange with bright colours on it, at the end of they day they are going to try and open it out of curiosity and then you have a needle stick injury and a potential injury to a child. When people are disposing of these items by all means use the boxes, but once you have used the box, or indeed, any medication, we know that Altnagelvin Hospital and pharmacists are quite prepared to take items such as these as long as they are properly packaged in order to dispose of them properly and safely instead of dumping them in somebody else’s back yard.”
“We also know that the Health and Social Service Board have a ‘drop’ for medical items with a ‘no questions asked policy’. It is a purely public health service designed specifically for getting rid of ‘dirty’ needles and syringes safely, so that used needles can be given back and clean needles can be given out. So there is absolutely no need to chuck them in a bonfire or on a street corner or alleyway,” said Sgt Young.