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Discarded needles on city streets pose a health risk, community leaders say

Law enforcement agencies throughout Central New York say heroin use is on the rise. And now, community leaders in the city of Syracuse say discarded needles are creating a new threat to public health.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – Law enforcement agencies throughout Central New York say heroin use is on the rise.

And now, community leaders in the city of Syracuse say discarded needles are creating a new threat to public health.

Neighbors on the city’s West Side say one child has already been hurt by an abandoned needle – and in one neighborhood they’re working to clean up the streets.

After looking around for just 10 minutes on Merriman Avenue, members of the Westside Residents Coalition found a needle.

"[It's] very easy for somebody to grab, like a little child that doesn't know - so we've been working on the issue surrounding syringe litter - not just the need to clean it up - but the need to make the community aware of the health hazards associated with syringe litter,” Karaline Rothwell said.

The Westside Resident Coalition is working to find discarded needles, and then dispose of them safely.

David Rownd became involved after he says his friend’s daughter was pricked by one.

"She had to go through a long series of tests. I made a commitment to her not to have it happen to someone else,” he said.

Rownd later found a needle on his property.

"I don't want to pick these things up – I shouldn't have to pick these things up,” Rownd said.

The pastor at Brown Memorial United Methodist Church, Rev. Marti Swords-Horrell, says just today a needle was found in the church parking lot.

“Whenever we find a needle - what do we do? We have a sharps box, but it's not a good solution,” she said.

The group says it is putting pressure on city officials to become involved in the problem.

The city tells NewsChannel 9 it is aware of the concerns and is looking into the problem.

In the meantime, the group is posting signs in neighborhoods warning people of the dangers and not to pick them up.

"This issue is a serious public health concern. We focus so much what heroin is doing to the community in terms of the drug user - well what about the public that's being affected by the drug user,” Rothwell said,

The group says you should call 911 so someone can safely dispose of the needle.

The Westside Residents Coalition says ACR Health operates a mobile syringe exchange in Syracuse's Near Westside community.

The purpose is to distribute clean needles to prevent the spread of diseases.

ACR Health also has trained personnel to pick up the needles when notified that they are found on the streets.

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