Discarded drug syringes on the rise in Sweet Home, according to police

Sean C. Morgan

Last year, Sweet Home police responded nearly once a week to reports of discarded syringes.

That trend has continued into 2018, with 17 reports as of Friday – the 12th week of this year. Last year, police responded to 46 reports of discarded syringes.

The year before, 2016, they had just 19, while in 2015, they responded to 30 reports. The five-year low was in 2014, with just 16 reports.

The statistics reflect only syringes that are found in public, said Police Chief Jeff Lynn. Police seize quite a few syringes for destruction from prisoners during booking at the jail and during the execution of search warrants.

The higher recent numbers could be related to higher levels of heroin use, said Police Chief Jeff Lynn.

Reports are generated by members of the public who find syringes dropped in public spaces and private businesses. They’re usually the same style as syringes found in hospitals, similar to the style used by diabetics for insulin shots.

They’re usually on the ground, Lynn said. Sometimes, they’re in toilets or hidden.

“Most of them have been used,” Lynn said. “We emphasize it is best that you do not touch or pick up discarded syringes. Tell children to let an adult know if they find a syringe.”

Sometimes they’re dropped out in the open, he said. That could be because a police officer drove by and the drug user is worried about being arrested for a warrant.

When officers respond, they pick up the syringes using gloves as personal protection, Lynn said. They carefully pick them up and deposit them in sharps containers, with which all patrol vehicles are equipped.

The syringes are not tested for drugs, Lynn said. He doesn’t want to endanger officers or lab technicians needlessly.

If a test might provide vital evidence, the police take precautions prior to sending syringes to the lab, Lynn said.

“You have to actually get permission from the crime lab to send them.”

Normally, when containers are full, they are sent for destruction at an incinerator in Brooks.

So how should one respond when coming upon a syringe? Here’s what the cops advise:

Do not:

– Handle a syringe.

– Try to break off, bend or cover the sharp end of the syringe.

If you do feel confident, you can follow these steps:

– Find a hard-walled, puncture-proof container with a wide top and secure lid.

– Bring the container to the syringe so you don’t have to carry the syringe.

– Place the container on the ground next to the syringe.

– Use protective gloves and tongs to carefully pick up the syringe, avoiding the sharp end. Do not recap the needle if the cap has been removed.

– Place the syringe in the container, sharp end first.

– If available, secure the lid of the container.

– Wash hands with running water and soap.

– Place the container in a sharps disposal bin.

Managing a needle stick injury:

– Stay calm.

– Allow the wound to bleed freely.

– Immediately wash the area with running water and soap, then rinse and pat dry.

– Cover with a band-aid or dry dressing.

– As soon as possible, contact your supervisor, a local doctor or a hospital.