Pubdate: Mon, 18 Dec 2017
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Sue-Ann Levy
Pages: 4-5


Where have all the dirty needles gone? Mayor's efforts have made a

This past Thursday, on a wickedly cold afternoon, I combed the same
Yonge-Dundas Sts.-area alleyways where dirty needles have
proliferated, particularly since the opening of Toronto's first
harm-reduction site.

While we saw plenty of drug paraphernalia buried in the snow - orange
needle caps, blue gloves, water bottles used as bongs and even
remnants of a Naloxone kit - we found no needles.

Perhaps the cold contributed to the fact that patrons of The Works on
Victoria St. are not shooting up outside. However, Mayor John Tory's
cleanup efforts appear to be working.

Tory announced the clean-up blitz - involving a series of city
departments - two weeks ago in the aftermath of concerns expressed by
the Downtown Yonge BIA and officials at

St. Michael's Choir School about the increased presence of dirty
needles within blocks of the site and St. Michael's Hospital, where
needles are also available.

Our tour guide was Mark Garner, COO of the Downtown Yonge BIA, who
took photographer Veronica Henri and me up and down the hotspots where
they normally find needles - a variety of alleys behind restaurants
and area theatres - where there's a lack of good lighting and lots of
hiding spots like behind trash bins.

Garner had told me in a Nov. 19 story that while they have their own
cleanup team out up to four times a day collecting needles, the
problem should not be left for the community alone to handle.

The Downtown Yonge team of four to six gentleman are out as early as 7
a.m. picking up needles and continue their sweeps twice more during
the day. He said he also walks the laneways at 6 a.m. and finds needles.

Garner said last week they spend $600,000 a year for the team, plus
power-washing and garbage bin replacement - a figure that has gone up
100% in the past four years.

Tory said Sunday the blitz involves extra cleanup efforts from city
solid waste and transportation staff, an increased presence of street
outreach workers to approach drug users in the alleyways and
stepped-up police foot patrols in the neighbourhood.

The civic leader said he's also been working with public health
officials to ensure those operating the supervised injection site are
doing as much as they can to lessen the impact on the surrounding

"We've spent a modest amount of money (by redirecting resources) and
we'll see if it makes a difference," Tory said.

During last week's tour, Garner said it is important that city
resources continue to be "targeted" at trouble spots. He said extra
resources should have come sooner rather than later.

Based on the Vancouver experience, where 65 extra officers were added
to patrol the area when InSite opened, Garner is absolutely right.

He feels the community should also be trained to understand how to
handle needles when found in public locations.

"They're not that scary but you need to handle them carefully or
you'll get these needle stick injuries that impact innocent people,"
he said.

But more important than anything, Garner feels the situation should be
assessed after the four-week period and if it has made a difference -
as our tour seemed to show - this focus should continue into the
spring because "there is a seasonality to this thing."

Tory said he plans to meet with Garner and others impacted in January
to assess the situation. In addition, he promised to continue to call
on the province to step up the pace of funding for proper addiction
treatment programs.
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MAP posted-by: Matt