Pubdate: Thu, 24 Aug 2017
Source: Tribune, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017, Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Joe Barkovich
Page: A2


Concern about dangers of discarded injection paraphernalia has
prompted the tattoo artist James Takeo to launch an online petition
which asks Welland city council to investigate installing sharps
containers in public places such as city parks.

Takeo said he posted the petition on social media during the second
week of this month. He said as of Tuesday it had racked up 715
signatures. He is pleasantly surprised by the response. The petition
says: "Too many times there have been incidences of needles being
improperly disposed of in city garbage cans or in other public places
in our community. This poses a safety risk for all members of the
community, especially city workers and staff who often must take the
responsibility of disposal of these sharps.

"By signing this petition, you are agreeing that the City of Welland
should investigate the installation of sharps disposal containers in
parks and other public places."

In Tuesday's interview, he declared that he has never been an
intravenous drug user.

I like Takeo's initiative. But I can't help but wonder: Is it folly on
Takeo's part? If intravenous drug users don't care about what they put
into their bodies, would they care about the health and safety of
others and go to the trouble of using them?

For Takeo, it's not the way to look at the issue.

"I'm saying if a sharps container is out there, maybe somebody is
going to use it. That's the way to view it," he said bluntly.

Their availability would also be a way to protect people who use
public places likes parks, particularly "innocent, unsuspecting
children" and also pets. He also voices concern for the well-being of
people who have to pick up discarded needles and dispose of them in
the public interest, for example, city staff.

By advocating for the sharps containers, Takeo stressed he is not
suggesting drug use by injection is running rampant in Welland.

"What I'm trying to put into people's heads is that this is not a drug
abuse issue, this is a harm reduction issue."

On social media in recent weeks, there have been reports of syringes
found in playgrounds, walking trails and other public areas. Takeo
himself recently found discarded materials at the south end of
Aqueduct Street.

"I've found needles in places and, according to Facebook posts, so
have other people. I thought if everyone is seeing them, shouldn't we
be doing something about it? I'm not trying to say our parks are full
of junkies. My point is, if people are finding them, who's dealing
with it?

"If I'm hearing about it and regular people are seeing it, can't there
be something we should be doing? Why not put in sharps

Takeo is well known around town. He was the organizer of the
head-turning WELLAND mural on the Hellems Avenue wall of a downtown
building a couple of summers ago. He organizes beautification
projects, enlisting public support to pitch in and lend a hand in
gussying up the environment, organized a free lending library and is
principal organizer of the annual Zombie Walk through downtown
streets, among other projects. He works as a tattoo artist and takes
pride in being a social activist and at times, outspoken voice.

He could not say how much longer his petition will be in

"I don't want to have it month to month to month, that's too long," he

"Maybe it will be another couple of weeks or 1,000 signatures,
whatever is first. That's an arbitrary decision I just made now."

He's not interested in expanding it to a traditional on-paper

The online petition is being signed by Welland residents, as well as
others in nearby communities and some from afar.

A sampling of several posted comments by respondents

"There have been too many times that I have walked away from parks
with my son and nieces and nephews because of one needle I can see,
but what scares me the most are the hidden needles I couldn't see … we
need better disposal systems for sure." - Whitley Sacco, Welland;

"Harm reduction principles are essential not only to individuals
experiencing addiction but also to the community. Sharps disposal
containers do not encourage drug use but protect the community from
harm as well as help decrease perceived stigma within drug users,
making them more likely to seek help." - Karianne Gracey, St. Catharines;

"I grew up in Welland, this is all too true and we need our kids and
the younger generation to be able to play safe, not be stepping on or
finding used needles." - Curtis Rodrique, St. Catharines;

"We need to be vigilant in protecting our people." - Gisele Prevost,
former Welland resident, Windsor;

"I'm signing because far too often while walking across Lincoln Street
I found sharpies. This is unacceptable as a lot of dog owners walk
their dogs across that bridge." - Collette Mueller, Welland;

"I want all children to have safe places to play. Needles do not
belong in our parks or anywhere in our communities." - Irene Motz, St.

"I have a daughter who will be playing in the parks when she is old
enough, and I want the peace of mind in knowing she will be safe." -
Star Martilla, Welland.

Takeo said he has no idea if Welland council will entertain the
suggestion about investigating installation of sharps disposal
containers. But he is going through with his initiative regardless, to
bring the problem of discarded needles into sharper public focus. I
think Welland council should acknowledge Takeo as a delegation at an
upcoming meeting, hear him out and support his request. To do so would
be to do the right thing.

The internet link to the petition can be found via .

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- - Lifelong Welland resident Joe Barkovich has spent much of that time
watching people. He continues to be amazed seeing the best and not so
best in us, but that's life. Get a glimpse of how Joe sees our part of
the world in his weekly column. He can be reached  ---
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