Syringes found in playground at Saugus school

SAUGUS – A Saugus dad is fuming mad after finding used hypodermic syringes in a school playground where his 3-year-old daughter occasionally visits to play.Joe Goldstein, an Essex County deputy sheriff for the past 15 years, said two syringes, including one with a broken needle tip, lay tossed on the gravel in the play lot at Veterans Memorial Elementary School on Hurd Avenue.”The syringes were right there in the open where any kid could step on them. They were right near the monkey bars,” Goldstein said of the Monday incident. “I took pictures of them with my cell phone.”According to Goldstein, conditions at the playground have been deteriorating over the past five years through increased vandalism and spills from trash barrels routinely allowed to overflow.”It’s filthy. The kids are destroying the place. They lit the Astroturf on fire. And on any day you can go down there and find empty bottles and condoms,” he said. “I know the cops patrol as much as they can, but they’re stretched thin. When you get to the point where you have syringes right there in the play area, something has to be done.”Goldstein said he called police after finding the needles. “They told me to put them in an empty bottle and throw them in the trash,” he said. “As a corrections officer, I know how to handle these items, but your average person doesn’t. If that needle is infected with HIV or HEP-C, it’s going to be a problem. What if some kid steps on one barefoot? I was there on Monday and there were 50 kids playing in that park.”Goldstein also claimed he contacted Selectman Michael Kelleher last year about conditions at the playground. “He lives in the area and drives by it every day. So for a while the trash was picked up, but nothing really has changed,” he said. “I moved from Lynn to Saugus in 2004 and it wasn’t like that then. But in the past five years it has gotten worse. Saugus is the user’s gateway to Lynn. People go to Route 1 to meet their dealers. If they use in Saugus, they leave their syringes behind.”Last month, a Vine Street resident called police to report syringes apparently discarded on the ground. A police officer brought eight syringes to the public safety building for disposal.”It’s no longer illegal to possess a hypodermic syringe in Massachusetts. Since that change, we have been finding them all over town,” said Police Chief Domenic Dimella. “Pretty much every day we get a hazmat (hazardous material) call and an ambulance crew or one of our officers picks up the syringe. We put them in Sharps containers.”The law changed in 2006 when the state Legislature voted in favor despite then Gov. Mitt Romney’s opposition to the bill.Dimella said he will assign extra patrols to Hurd Avenue. “We need to rely on the public for this. If they see somebody who doesn’t look like they belong, call us. We would rather be proactive than reactive,” he said.The police chief said rock-bottom heroin prices – $5 a bag – are creating some of the problem since users rely on syringes to inject the drug, unlike more expensive narcotics found in pill form. “Lots of times these things are left behind by transients in vehicles,” he said. “But there are addicts in every community. We have our share in Saugus like everybody else.””This is the first we have heard of it,” said Donna McNeil, executive assistant to School Superintendent Richard Langlois. “But it would be a police matter. Even if we get a phone call about something like this, we would refer them to the police.”Jeannie Meredith, co-president of the Veterans Memorial Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization, learned of the incident because her friend’s daughter was there when the syringes were discovered. “It’s absolutely devastating,” she said Wednesday. “If it had been a regular school day instead of a holiday, there would have been even more children on that playground, including our pre-schoolers.”Meredith said the incident “hits too close to home” because Hurd Avenue is not a major thoroughfa

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