While a full-time Clean Team has already picked up more than 5,000 needles in Victoria’s downtown core this year, businesses outside of the less than two-square-kilometre radius are left to deal with dirty needles themselves.
Richard Impett has owned the property on the corner of Government and Queens for 34 years. On Monday, Oct. 22, companies renting space on the property couldn’t get access to their business because one of the driveways was blocked by garbage.
“Clothing, garbage, garbage bins, bicycles, vacuum cleaners. Dozens and dozens of needles” were found there, Impett said. “The needles are unbelievable.”
When they called the city, workers came with a bin to take the junk. A needle removal company has tried to clean up the needles before, but Impett said it’s impossible despite a needle drop-off bin down the road.
“We can’t get into the back because there’s so many needles there,” he said. “I’m not prepared to have our employees touch any of the stuff, because they’re not used to handling needles — that’s not part of their job. It’s not just being picky, it’s really disgusting sometimes… There’s often vomit, excrement, you name it.”
His store is a few blocks outside of the Downtown Victoria Business Association Clean Team’s boundary. Several ideas have been tried over the past few years, such as when the city added curbs and sidewalks in the area several years ago, and the businesses can call a police liaison officer who knows the block well. Impett’s property also maintains a garden area along Queens Street, which Impett said they’ve spent a lot of money on.
“But inside the bushes, everywhere you can find needles. So, it’s scary to go in and do the landscaping,” he said, adding that multiple landscaping companies turned down the job. The woman who eventually did the work wore heavy-duty gloves to avoid being pricked by used needles.
“I know all sorts of areas in the city are having the same problem, but it’s got to the point where it affects everybody’s business.”
David Screech said it’s a steady problem at his neighbouring business on Government Street, where he recently found a pile of garbage that included multiple needles.
“We have containers that have been given to us to dispose of the needles properly, so we do that and we phone to have them taken away,” Screech said. “But it means essentially that I do the cleanup. I’m not going to ask our staff at the store to clean up that kind of mess. When it happens, it’s something I deal with. It is a steady, steady problem.”
“I don’t have any suggestions,” Impett said. “Nobody seems to.”