Belfast residents have become concerned over the increase in needles and drug paraphernalia being found in public places across the city.
Not unusual, since most towns and cities face similar problems that simply don’t just go away.
While some areas do very little, shown dramatically in out audit of management of discarded sharps Belfast is starting out on a comprehensive and clearly wise multi-faceted approach.
Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership has been leading on the partnership response aimed at dealing with the inappropriate disposal of needles and drug paraphernalia.
A Sharps Management Group, made up of experts who deliver drug support services in Belfast, was set up to reduce the public safety issue around discarded needles and drug paraphernalia.
Members have been working on actions to raise awareness around the issues.
A report to go before councillors on the council’s People and Communities Committee on Tuesday states increasing reports of these incidents indicate it is a “growing problem”.
This is what is being done to tackle the problem:
1. Training and awareness for businesses: A training day was held in March for retailers experiencing difficulty issues with drugs use and discarded needles on their premises. In total, 38 employees from a range of retail outlets attended as well as PSNI officers. Support is also being provided to traders to let them know what assistance is available if they find needles or drug paraphernalia on their premises.
2. Sharps removal contract : A dedicated phone number is available for the public to report the discovery of drugs related sharps which is supported by a sharps removal contract. It includes an out of hours telephone line.
3. Sharps disposal units : Specifically designed sharps disposal units have been placed in public toilets on – Dublin Road, Lombard Street, Antrim Road, Custom House Square and the Gasworks. One is also in place at the Winetavern Street toilets and there are hopes to expand the scheme to other toilets.
4. Guidance for council employees : Formalised guidance to staff on actions to be taken in the event of a needle stick injury as well as a review of the procedure that staff should follow if they encounter someone they suspect is under the influence of drugs.
5. Accurate recording of data : A central reporting system for relevant council staff and partners have been established so they can get a better understanding of the level of the issue. Reports are shared with all partners to ensure coordination of action.
6. Enabling council staff : All Safer Neighbourhood Officers and Park Wardens now carry sharp bins in their vehicles and have all the appropriate equipment for the safe disposal of any material found.
This is what will be done:
1. Raising awareness : This includes the development and delivery of an advertising campaign targeting those who use needles, encouraging safe disposal. It also covers a video resource.
2. Accurate recording, and timely sharing of data : Ongoing improvements to accuracy and timeliness of the sharing of reports and information across the agencies.
3. Targeted work with hostels : Specific interventions to be developed with or by hostels in Belfast enabling them to better support vulnerable people in their care around drug use and safe disposal of injecting equipment.
Well done, Belfast!