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Olympic Village residents raise concerns about needles in parks, playgrounds

Residents hope local authorities will increase the number of patrols and needle sweeps in the area

Vancouver's Southeast False Creek on June 22, 2917 is pictured here.

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Vancouver's Southeast False Creek on June 22, 2917 is pictured here.

Some residents in Olympic Village are sounding the alarm over what they say is an increase in needles in parks, playgrounds, and the seawall.

Photos of drug paraphernalia in the neighbourhood sent to media show needles and condoms on park benches and in grassy areas. Resident Sarah Desaulniers told Metro she hopes the city will act before the situation reaches crisis levels.

“Some parents don’t feel safe to bring their kids to the park or sand play areas anymore and have to teach their [sic] kids to point out needles and to not touch, which is very sad and this does not help build a community whatsoever,” she said in a written statement.

The park board is dealing with a similar situation at nearby Andy Livingston Park, where it increased patrols after residents complained about needles in the playground earlier this summer. Staff there pick up about 100 needles a day, the park board told Metro in June.

Patrols monitor Andy Livingston until 11 p.m. everyday and are sometimes accompanied by police officers.

Desaulniers says Olympic Village residents want to see similar measures in their neighbourhood.

She wants the city to increase needle sweeps in the parks to at least once a day and to staff 24-hour patrols in the area. Providing more sharp containers in the Village would help too, she said.

The park board’s director of parks, Howard Normann, was not able to provide the exact number of needle disposal boxes in Olympic Village but confirmed there is at least one at Creekside Community Centre.

“If it becomes a bigger issue of course we’ll have to ramp up in terms of visitations and [needle] sweeps."

Staff are monitoring the situation but there are currently no plans to allocate more resources to Olympic Village, he said.

All park board staff carry portable needle disposal boxes with them during their shift in Olympic Village, he added. Gardeners at Hinge Park and Creekside Park perform a needle sweep every morning around 7 a.m.

And while there are particular areas of concern, like Habitat Island where crews recently picked up several hundred needles in one clean-up session, the Olympic Village neighbourhood in general is not as challenging to deal with as the Downtown Eastside, according to Normann.

“I don’t think it is anywhere near as bad as Andy Livingston in terms of being close to the Downtown Eastside.”

He is encouraging residents to call the city or the needle hotline if they see drug paraphernalia in their neighbourhood. The information helps staff determine where to concentrate their clean up efforts.

The park board is still learning how to better deal with the drug overdose crisis every day, he said.

“Public safety is our number one focus for me and my staff. Ten years ago we weren’t dealing with any needles. And all of a sudden we’re dealing with needles on a daily basis.”

People can contact Vancouver Coastal Health’s needle-pickup hotline at 604-657-6561.

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