An employee of North Star Terminal on Sept. 11 turned in a box of about 100 used syringes and needles found behind the barge basin on the Homer Spit. Homer Police Chief Mark Robl said the syringes were picked up over the course of a few days.
Robl said police don’t know where the syringes came from, but he said it’s common for intravenous drug users to dump syringes where they shoot up. Although the front of the terminal is gated, the Mud Bay or east side is accessible by walking from elsewhere on the Spit. City employees also find syringes in public restrooms frequently, he said.
People who find syringes or needles should be careful handling them, Robl said.
“It’s easy to mishandle these darn things and have an inadvertent needle stick,” Robl said. “That’s something that can have bad consequences for you.”
Used syringes carry a risk of spreading IV-transmitted diseases like hepatitis or AIDS.
According to advice from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the safest way to handle syringes is to put them in hard plastic containers like laundry detergent or shampoo bottles. Seal the lid with duct tape and write “sharps/do not recycle” on the bottle. Syringes also can be put in “sharps” containers made especially to safely handle use needles. Syringes can be taken to the police station for disposal by asking a dispatcher. Sharps containers also are in some city restrooms.
The Exchange also provides free, new syringes and accepts used syringes from 5-7 p.m. the first and third Tuesday of each month at the South Peninsula Hospital Annex on West Pioneer Avenue near Greatland Street.
Robl advised people who find needles or syringes to call police at 235-3150 if they’re not comfortable picking them up.
If people come across areas where people are shooting up, Robl advised people not to approach them.
“I think the best response is probably to walk away and give us a call,” he said. “You certainly don’t want to confront the person.”
Police do not have an accurate number of drug users in the Homer area, Robl said. Intravenous drug users usually shoot up heroin or meth, with more meth than heroin, he said.
Robl said police did see an increase of users over the summer.
“It’s safe to say we had a summer influx of users,” he said. “I certainly expect them to be leaving. We saw an uptick of syringes around here in the summer — I would say a pretty good increase. I fully expect it to get down to our local user levels in the next couple of weeks.”
Reach Michael Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org.