Public urged to not speculate on who taped needle to railing in park

People need to resist the urge to jump to conclusions about who left a used needle found taped to a railing in Beacon Hill Park, says Our Place communications director Grant McKenzie.

McKenzie said he found the timing of the discovery “troubling,” given the growing tensions surrounding the presence of homeless people living in Beacon Hill Park.

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While McKenzie said he can’t rule out the possibility that someone who used the needle tied it to the railing, he said it could have been placed to stir up more controversy about people tenting in the park.

“I think your natural instinct, especially in a community when we don’t understand addiction, we jump to that conclusion right away. Oh, it must have been someone who’s addicted who did that. You really have to think about, you know, what would that person have gained from that, compared to on the other side where it’s raised more hatred towards the campers at Beacon Hill Park. And so that seems, to me, a larger incentive than someone actually deliberately trying to hurt someone for no good reason,” McKenzie said.

Victoria police issued a warning Sunday after officers found a needle, with what appeared to be a small amount of blood, tied to a hand railing on the west side of the park, near Douglas and Toronto streets. VicPD said the officers who found the needle believe it was deliberately placed with the intent to hurt someone, because it was partially concealed and placed where someone could have been pricked by it.

VicPD spokesman Bowen Osoko said the needle was found “double-tied” with a bag and tape to the hand railing.

“So the needle itself is actually pointed towards the inside of the staircase. So if you were walking down the staircase looking ahead and had your hand on the staircase, it would actually strike your hand if you didn’t see it,” Osoko said.

It’s not the first time warnings have been issued about needles found in public places in Victoria. In a two-day span in January 2018, two people were pricked in separate incidents, but police said there was no indication of malicious intent. A three-year-old was pricked after finding an uncapped syringe on Pandora Avenue, and a woman walking her dog was pricked after taking a bag away from the dog. There were capped and uncapped syringes inside the bag.

At the time, Island Health’s chief medical health officer Dr. Richard Stanwick said dangerously discarded needles could be part of a plan to discredit people who use drugs and public health efforts aimed at harm reduction.

Stanwick was not available for an interview Wednesday.

VicPD receives one or two calls a year from people finding needles in public places, Osoko said, and it’s often hard to know if they were deliberately placed or left without thinking.

But given the placement of the needle found Sunday, Osoko said “it’s hard to imagine that this wasn’t intended to cause harm.”

He said police have no information to tie the needle to any particular person or group, and they worry about the backlash an incident like this can cause against people who use drugs.

“As far as we know, no one was injured. We’re certainly concerned about it and if people have information, we’d like them to come forward, but this isn’t the time to stigmatize people who need help,” Osoko said.

VicPD continue to investigate the incident. Anyone with information can contact the non-emergency line at 250-995-7654.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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