In one night, the two people who make up a newly formed citizen patrol group in Regina say they found 438 used needles, 50 cookers — small circular items that look like bottle caps used to melt drugs to be injected — 25 unused condoms, three pipes and two baggies, all in one small area in North Central.
The haul wasn't surprising for Patty Will and her patrol partner, Wade LeCaine, who did their first outing as the new Queen City Patrol group on Monday night.
Will said when she lived in Regina's North Central neighbourhood, people would throw used needles into her yard.
"Every morning I would have to go out before I let my dogs out and clean up the needles," she said.
Will and LeCaine both used to patrol with White Pony Lodge in North Central Regina but were concerned a walking patrol didn't have a far enough reach.
With Queen City Patrol, they drive so they can cover a wider area.
The patrol is only the two of them for now, but Will hopes to see it grow. They've started a Facebook page, asking residents to flag areas that could use some help.
"It just exploded, absolutely exploded; we did not expect that," Will said. "We had people messaging us from all over Regina — not just North Central, the downtown core — we have some people calling, messaging us from northwest, even in the south."
As they're patrolling, they hope to create a map of different hot spots in the city so they can ask city hall for more needle drop box bins in those areas, Will said.
There are currently two needle drop box locations in the city: one in North Central, in the alley between Cameron Street and Garnet Street (off Fifth Avenue) and another downtown, in the alley by Core Community Park on the 1800 block of Montreal Street. The Saskatchewan Health Authority also has its Street Project van during weekdays to help pick up needles.
If you find a needle, the health authority recommends using tongs, pliers and gloves to pick up the syringe by the barrel end and placing it in an empty strong container. They can then be taken to the nearest drop box, or you can call the Street Project at 306-766-7799 for someone to pick it up.
"This is not just a North Central problem — this is everywhere in the city of Regina," Will said.
In the long term, Will hopes to see a supervised injection site in the city.
Her biggest concern is for the kids who may find something they don't understand while playing, or ingest something dangerous.
"I don't want my grandkids walking down the street and picking up a needle, not know that that's not safe," Will said. "They could be the next trip down to the hospital if they're lucky. They might not even make it to the hospital."
Will said with the creation of Queen City Patrol, they're not discouraging people from volunteering with White Pony Lodge. She hopes to see people volunteer for either group.
"Obviously there's a large, large need," she said. "The whole entire city wants something to do with this."
Will hopes in the future the patrol can get a van to get trained volunteers out and about whenever possible.