Don't touch: What to do when finding needles in Seattle

Don't touch: What to do when finding needles in Seattle

Discarded syringes have become a common sight around Seattle — along streets, in parks and along pathways.

They have become associated with the homeless crisis Seattle currently faces, along with the many encampments and roadside RVs throughout town.

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The campsites have become so prevalent that the City of Seattle is hiring a Homeless Encampment Cleanup Program Manager. The city notes that the $36-39 an hour job will involve handling toxic/hazardous substances, and will organize responses when residents report trash and encampments.

But while the city mounts a response to the toxic issue, Seattle's residents are already dealing with it and are picking up needles around their neighborhoods themselves. That's why the North Precinct Advisory Council is planning an educational meet up to instruct Seattleites what to do when they come across used needles.

"They are doing it anyway. They are doing the work, because they don't want their children or pets to be poked," said Mike Cuarda with the North Precinct Advisory Council. "They are calling parks, and parks is responding but they come one day and the next day there's more. The city is responding, too, but I'm just assuming that the city and parks are overwhelmed."

The advisory council is a hub for the many North Seattle neighborhoods to communicate with police in that area. Cuadra and the advisory council heard about so many neighbors dealing with needles they thought something should be done to educate people.

"This was in response to people in the 40 community groups in the North Precinct telling us they were having issues with discarded needles in parks, alleyways, and in front of their houses," Cuadra said. "And they were picking them up, and they wanted more information about risks and the proper way to do it."

The syringes are commonly used for drug use, in a city facing a heroin epidemic. Theypose health risks as they can carry hepatitis, HIV and other germs.

"I was hearing the same thing over and over, so I brought it to the North Precinct Advisory Council," he said.

The advisory council has organized a class for interested Seattleites: How to Safely Remove Used Syringes from Public Areas. A representative from Seattle-King County Public Health will speak about dangers the needles pose, and how to properly handle them when encountered.

Where: University Masonic Lodge, 4338 University Way NE, Seattle
When: 10-11 a.m. on Feb. 20

Those interested in attending can email and RSVP.Neighborhood groups started promoting the event on blogs, and by handing out fliers. Cuadra notes that it is best to register so they know how many supplies to purchase.

The local Masonic Lodge has donated funds to purchase SHARPS containers, instruments for safely picking up needles, and other supplies for the task.

"We're not promoting or telling people to go out and pick syringes up," Cuadra said. "There's just a lot of people already doing this. So we want them to do it safely."

If a person comes across a syringe in public, the first method of dealing with it is to call the city. If a needle is found in a park, call the Seattle Parks department at 206-684-7250. Syringes on other city property can be reported to 206-684-7587.