Pubdate: Wed, 13 Mar 2002
Source: Surrey Now (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc., A Canwest Company
Author: Tom Zytaruk
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


A Surrey councillor wants to see Surrey's needle exchange service 
decentralized as the operation has become a "magnet" for crime in Whalley.

Council supported Coun. Dianne Watts' motion Monday asking that the 
provincial government review the current delivery model with the "sole 
intent" to decentralize the service.

The Surrey needle exchange distributes about 25,000 needles annually 
compared to the Vancouver needle exchange's three million.

Watts said possible alternatives to the exchange, which is operated from an 
office on 135A Street, include making needles available at medical 
facilities regulated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, selling 
them at retail outlets or making them available through mobile units.

Surrey's needle exchange falls under the umbrella of South Fraser Community 
Services, which is run by Jim Bennett.

"This is what I wanted all along," said Bennett. "Everything she (Watts) 
suggested has been looked at, pondered over and asked for."

Bennett said needles are already available at stores, people can already 
get needles at doctors' offices, and going mobile is more expensive than 
staying put.

"These changes cost more than now," he said. "That's why we didn't get them."

Watts said the Surrey RCMP is "absolutely on board with this" as last year 
the detachment received about 400 calls to the exchange and its immediate 

"So that's every day. It has been a real magnet for drug dealers, 
prostitution and crack houses in the area," Watts said. "We need to find 
another way of delivering the service."

She said she wants to make sure the service remains intact in the 
community, but with a different delivery model.

Coun. Barbara Steele, who lives in a highrise at 104th and 148th, said 
people are getting "much more frustrated" with the social problems in North 
Surrey. "I think something has to be done sooner, not later, and now is the 
time it really needs to be done."

Coun. Judy Higginbotham agreed: "I think Whalley has suffered a great deal."

Bennett takes issue with the notion the needle exchange is a crime magnet 
as a majority of the social problems in that neighbourhood are associated 
with crack cocaine, which is smoked, not injected. Many of the police 
visits, he said, are from officers bringing people to South Fraser 
Community Services for help.

"Who else should have more calls in Whalley than we do?" Bennett said. 
"This whole idea that all hell's breaking loose and we're fighting crime 
all the time is just nuts."

Still, Surrey RCMP Const. Tim Shields says police are concerned with the 

"There's certainly a high level of crime associated to the immediate area 
of the needle exchange," Shields said.
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