Business owners kick in to start needle buy-back program

Needles gathered from the city's downtown streets.
Needles gathered from the city’s downtown streets.

A couple of local businessmen, with the help of Coun. Brian Skakun, have decided to put some cash to help clean up the downtown core.

When the city’s downtown seasonal compliance team presented its report to council in September, many were shocked at the amount of debris that was collected by the team. According to the report, “the team took 54 loads of waste and debris, with a weight totaling 3,530 kilograms, to the Foothills Landfill. The majority of the debris taken to the landfill consisted of soiled mattresses, bike parts, wooden pallets, clothing, general garbage, drug paraphernalia, contaminated cardboard, and Styrofoam insulation.”

In August alone, the team picked up more than three, 19-litre pails of used syringes and associated drug paraphernalia. In addition to used paraphernalia, they found numerous new unopened syringes still in boxes.  

Skakun has raised the issue during the campaign and this week Craig Briere (of the Prestige Treasure Cove Hotel) and Barry Boehmer “kick-started a needle buy-back program and personally donated $4,000 and have another $6,000 committed from local businesses,” said Skakun. “This program will mirror the one Caroline King started in Kamloops. It’s a start that we hope can be both sustainable and effective. “We will also be contacting people in the non-profit sector to see if they can work with our group to make this program work.”

A homeless man at his camp spot at the foot of Third Avenue in Prince George. Bill Phillips photo
A homeless man at his camp spot at the foot of Third Avenue in Prince George. Bill Phillips photo

The downtown seasonal compliance team did more than simply pick up needles, however. Between May 15 and August 31 the team dealt with more than 600 documented contacts and incidents of improper disposal of waste and individuals camped out on public or private property in the downtown area.

“Incidents related to persons camped on private or public property from May 1 to the end of August totaled 571, compared to just 72 in the same period in 2017,” according to the report. “A typical day for the team started at 7 a.m. by doing a sweep of the downtown looking for persons

camped out in public and private spaces without authority. The team’s goal was to have persons clean up any mess or nuisance created and ensure the area did not present a health and safety risk. The team identified several regular locations of concern that were being regularly used.”

Those locations included:

– Plaza Parkade on 5th Avenue

– George Street near the Court House

– 3rd Avenue near the Needle Exchange

– 2nd Avenue near St Vincent de Pauls

– Canada Games Plaza

– Patricia Boulevard

– Lower Patricia Boulevard

– Ingledew Park

– Connaught Hill