Pubdate: Sat, 03 Apr 2004
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Times Colonist
Author: Richard Watts, Times Colonist


It's a fact of modern life that drug addicts often end up in the court
system, and that's forced changes at the Victoria courthouse. Junkies
making court appearances sometimes shoot up in the courthouse and then
need a way to safely get rid of used hypodermic needles.

If the needles aren't safely disposed of, people may contract
infectious blood diseases like hepatitis or AIDS through accidental

In response to safety worries, public washrooms on the lower floor of
the courthouse now have containers for used needles. The containers
are made of heavy duty plastic and can be opened only with a key.
There is no mistaking their intended use. They are marked with the
words Used Needles, and have drawings of hypodermic syringes.

Sheriff James Lee, in charge of the Victoria courthouse, said when the
idea of installing the containers was discussed, there were concerns
that an improper perception might be created.

A courthouse is a building where drug laws are enforced -- so some
people might think that having the disposal boxes would make it easier
for people to break those laws.

But Lee said safety concerns outweighed worries about

Lee said used needles have been found discarded in washroom garbage
bins where they pose a hazard to janitors. They have also been found
stuffed inside toilet paper dispensers, posing a threat to the next
person who uses a toilet.

"It all came down to the safety of others," said Lee. The change came
from the building's own health and safety committee, where union and
management have equal representation.

"It's a sad thing to see but that's what a lot of our clientele are
(intravenous drug users)," said Lee.

The courthouse isn't the first public building in the capital region
to bow to the dangerous reality of urban litter.

Crystal Pool, owned by the City of Victoria, has a needle disposal box
outside the building.

The boxes are a holdover from the days when an adjacent park had
public washrooms, said Crystal Pool acting manager Sandy Clark.

Those washrooms have been demolished, in part because they attracted
too much unsavoury activity, such as drug use.

But the disposal boxes remained.

The city-owned public washrooms in Centennial Square also have
disposal boxes for used needles.

Bill Jackson, City Hall supervisor of building maintenance, said the
boxes are well used even though the washrooms are only open from 8
a.m. to 4 p.m. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake