A North Kamloops man is doing his part to clean up the neighbourhood around McDonald Park, one discarded needle at a time.
Ben James, 30, lives in the area that RCMP designate as a Red Zone because of the amount of drugs, prostitution and crime, particularly along nearby Tranquille Road.
Those undesirable activities have declined, but James still finds the odd needle tossed in an alley or yard, he told The Daily News on Tuesday.
“It used to be kind of a real dive, but it’s getting better,” said James.
Between jobs, James embarked on his venture a couple of months ago when he saw the same needle outside a family’s home near McDonald Park.
When he asked the dad why he hadn’t picked up the needle, the father told him he was too scared to get rid of it, said James.
So James did.
James fills his time looking for needles — between dropping off resumes and waiting for phone calls on prospective jobs. He walks and rides his bike everywhere, so the task quickly became part of his routine.
He’s found about a half dozen needles, most in alleyways. James also collects needles from drug users and disposes of them, a form of prevention, he said.
Despite his good intentions, James takes flak from some residents, and has even been confronted by a few people who want to know why he’s creeping along an alley. He doesn’t blame them.
“I have long hair, I wear an old winter jacket and it doesn’t look right to see that guy wandering the streets aimlessly in front of the kiddie park,” said James
“It doesn’t help when you say, ‘I’m out here looking for old needles.’ ”
James wants people to know he’s not up to no good. He takes his container of needles to ASK Wellness, where they are disposed of.
ASK executive director Bob Hughes said his staff pick up discarded needles throughout the community, adding it’s a service they offer. Whenever someone brings in a needle or a container of used needles, they are disposed of.
Hughes said discarded needles frighten people, and he doesn’t blame them for not wanting to handle one. That’s where ASK comes in.
Discarded needles are safe as long as people don’t grab the tip of the needle or its working parts, said James.
“People should realize a needle isn’t going to explode in their hand or give them seven years bad luck,” said James.
RCMP Cpl. Cheryl Bush said there’s always a risk associated with discarded needles and people should contact Interior Health rather than attempt to deal with the needle themselves.
James intends to keep collecting needles after he finds work.