Pubdate: Tue, 04 May 2004
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Times Colonist
Author: Norman Gidney, Times Colonist


Businessman's Confrontation With Addict Leads to Health Scare and Renewed 
Concern About Drug Use on the Streets

Thomas McVeigh recently decided to get involved in tackling downtown drug 
crime issues, but on the weekend that involvement suddenly got up close and 

On a bright morning, in his front yard beside the family business, an 
intravenous drug user stuck him with a needle on the wrist, inflicting a 
minor puncture wound. That has caused him to start a regime of anti-HIV 
drugs and antibiotics -- seven pills twice a day for a month that cause 
nausea and diarrhea -- to counter possible disease-causing effects of the 
needle stick.

If McVeigh went untreated and the addict was infectious, he was told the 
chances are one in 330 of contracting the same condition. The drug cocktail 
improves his chances to one in a thousand, he said.

The incident did not happen in a dark downtown alley in a bad part of town 
just after the bars had closed. It occurred at 9:30 Sunday morning on a 
major downtown thoroughfare, by McVeigh's front door and just steps from 
the sidewalk.

McVeigh and his wife Lara Bergseth had been walking their dog. When they 
returned to their home, located beside their business, Idar Jewellers, 
there was a man by the door.

"I thought he was trying to break in," said McVeigh, who yelled and 
confronted him. The young man said something about wanting access to an 
outdoor faucet, then when McVeigh was closer, he could see he was holding 
what might have been a knife.

Wanting to protect his wife in the confined courtyard space, McVeigh got 
closer and grabbed the man's wrists to immobilize him, then "muscled him up 
the stairs" and shoved him down the sidewalk.

That's when he noticed the pain and bleeding and realized he'd been stabbed 
with the needle.

In this case, Victoria police detectives in the area managed to catch a 
suspect quickly. He is facing a charge of assault with a weapon after being 
released without bail, said Const, Rick Anthony.

In the last 18 months, McVeigh and his wife have noticed an increase in 
drug activity and paraphernalia in the area.

Publicity and tougher police enforcement have driven the trade out of the 
so-called "red zone" and dispersed it to the edges of downtown.

On their Sunday morning walk before the incident, they had spotted two 
needles and some of the pure water containers that injection drug users 
use, McVeigh said.

Many stores on Fort Street have installed grilles at their front windows. 
Idar Jewellers added steel roller blinds last year after a smash and grab.

They're accustomed to increased drug use and drug crime in their downtown 
neighbourhood, said McVeigh, but "I'm not used to getting needles jabbed in 

"It was an unusual thing to happen and I hope it stays unusual."

McVeigh is trying to learn more about the issues and to help. He joined a 
Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce committee on downtown street issues 
and spent an evening last week at the public forum on a possible supervised 
injection site for Victoria.

Police are frustrated, McVeigh said. He was told the suspect had kicked his 
drug habit and gone back to Newfoundland, but returned to Victoria a couple 
of months ago and started using again. There isn't enough space in 
treatment centres, he said, and police lack the power to keep people off 
the street.

"It's lunacy. They catch the guy but their hands are tied to the point 
where a guy of no fixed address and shown to be a danger to the community, 
they can't even keep him overnight."

Victoria police Const. Rick Anthony said the incident points out the need 
to leave certain situations to the police.

"If you come across someone on your property, back off and call us. Let us 
put ourselves at risk." Even if the person gets away, the main thing is to 
avoid danger, Anthony said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager