Those needles being found by school officials, passersby, police and children around town?
For the most part, they’re unused, said Stowe Police Chief Don Hull, whose department has tested a few of the needles to learn more about where they’re coming from.
“The needles that we have recovered, we’ve tried to field-test some of them, and there’s nothing on them,” Hull told the Stowe Select Board Monday night.
“We’ve looked to see if there’s any residue or something like that, and we have a test kit to see if it comes back positive or negative,” he said Tuesday.
His department has different test kits for several substances, including marijuana, heroin and cocaine, but doesn’t test for legal injectable substances, such as insulin, Hull said.
“We stick with normally what would be used, like heroin or something like that, but that’s not to say they couldn’t be (used for) prescription” medication, Hull said.
“We’re not seeing anything on them or in them. No residue, or even blood” that would indicate they’d been used.
“Even if they’re not clean, the question is, why is somebody dumping five or 10 needles at a time in certain spots? Are they trying to draw attention to something? Or are they just trying to — I don’t know if cause a stir is the right word, but maybe trying to get some attention to the fact that there’s needles around? I wish I had the answer.”
He told the select board “there’s been a dramatic decrease over the past three weeks in the amount of needles found.”
Hull doesn’t know why that number is dropping, but acknowledged it coincided with publication of a Stowe Reporter article June 27 about the needles. By that time, 300 needles had been found since August 2018.
“I don’t know if these needles are being put out there intentionally or to try to get people to make notice of something. I just don’t know,” Hull told the board.
But “I’m not sure they’re shooting up. We found a couple where there were some people camping along the rec path,” which could point to non-medical use, but the vast majority of the needles don’t track with recreational injectable use.
“The bike officer was on patrol on the bike path and he regularly checks the benches and certain areas. He came back 15 minutes later and there were three needles there. Who put them there?” Hull asked rhetorically.
Regardless of where they’re coming from, the town needs to find a solution, Emily Rosenbaum, president of the Jewish Community of Greater Stowe, told the board. She asked the board to fund a sharps disposal program and an educational program.
“We’re finding needles all over town, including in our parking lot, including other houses of worship around town, and all over the place,” Rosenbaum said. “For private citizens or private organizations to put up just one sharps drop in their parking lot doesn’t mean a program, and wouldn’t provide the support needed for the safe disposal of needles. …
“Nobody wants someone to get hurt. People who have an addiction don’t want somebody to get hurt,” she said. “They just don’t have a safe way to dispose of the needles.
“We’re hoping that there can be some sort of comprehensive plan.”
Hull proposed the board fund four sharps disposal units, at a total of about $500, and put them in the public bathrooms of the Akeley Memorial Building, Stowe Free Library and Stowe Arena, and in the lobby of the public safety building.
He says it will cost about $200 per year to maintain them, and Stowe Emergency Medical Services will hold on to the sharps that are collected.
The board voted to approve Hull’s plan, and a pamphlet explaining what people should do if they find needles, and that the Stowe Police Department is available to retrieve needles if people don’t feel comfortable doing it themselves.
Hull expects the receptacles to arrive in a few weeks.