Saugus school PTO to discuss syringe finds

SAUGUS – When the Veterans Memorial Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) meets on May 3, the agenda will include a discussion of the hypodermic needles and syringes found in the abutting playground.Joe Goldstein, a Saugus dad visiting the playground with his 3-year-old daughter on Patriots’ Day, spotted two syringes near the monkey bars amid the cluster of play structures. He photographed the syringes and contacted the police, concerned a child might pick up or inadvertently step on the needles, which could be potentially infected with the HIV/AIDS or HEP-C virus.”We will certainly be talking about this at our next meeting,” said PTO Co-President Jeannie Meredith, equating the scourge of drug abuse in America to an act of terrorism. “It’s absolutely devastating when you think of what drugs are doing to our children and to our country.”Meredith said parents were particularly incensed upon learning the syringes had been discarded on the playground. She noted the elementary school on Hurd Avenue is a daily gathering place for hundreds of students from pre-school to grade 5, most of whom use the playground.School Committee member Arthur Grabowski said the Department of Public Works has emptied the trash barrels outside the school and raked the nearby ground for needles or other hazardous debris.”I sympathize with the parents and their little kids, but this is not a school issue, it’s a police matter and an issue for our entire society,” he said Thursday.Grabowski opined there is no easy solution. “This is something every community struggles with – drugs, alcohol, substance abuse. Our Youth and Recreation Commission tries to deal with it. The police do, too, but they can’t be down there all day,” he said.A few years ago, the playground on Bristow Street was plagued by vandalism and illegal drug use, he said, recalling how the community helped alleviate the situation.”The people in that neighborhood got together and said, ‘We are not going to stand for this anymore.’ They became the eyes and ears down there, which is what has to happen on Hurd Avenue, and hopefully the police will be instructed to respond to their calls,” he said. “We have to make them so uncomfortable, make their lives so miserable, that they don’t want to be in that area. And the point isn’t just to move them from one neighborhood to another. We keep moving them until they decide this isn’t the place.”The drug activity mostly occurs in the evening, long after the schools are closed. Some schools are fitted with surveillance cameras, but reviewing the images doesn’t always reap enough evidence to seek criminal charges.”Legalizing possession of hypodermic syringes certainly didn’t help,” said Grabowski, referring to the 2006 law change in Massachusetts. “It’s a multifaceted problem. You have to wonder where the parents (of the drugs abusers) are. We have to heighten awareness. As for the schools, I suppose we could have the janitors or teachers go out and take a look on the playground before the kids get there, but this really isn’t something that’s happening during school hours.”Town Manager Andrew Bisignani said police have been requested to increase patrols at town parks and playgrounds. “That’s important, especially with the coming of nicer weather,” he said Thursday. “We also have a new trash truck in town with two people aboard who get out and walk the parks and playgrounds. They pick up any trash or other rubbish around the playground equipment.”Bisignani noted the truck is scheduled to stop at the Hurd Avenue playground on Mondays, but the holiday intervened. “On Tuesday, all the trash barrels at the playground were emptied and the lot cleaned up. Unfortunately, at night you have people who go down there and do their business and leave whatever is involved in that business behind,” he said.

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