Needles draw ire of Saugus PTO moms

SAUGUS – On Monday afternoon, police were called to the vicinity of 5 Western Ave. to pick up a discarded hypodermic needle and syringe.It was the sixth time in a week and the latest in what has become an alarmingly routine incident in which drug users casually toss aside their potentially infected paraphernalia. In mid-April, the father of a pre-schooler found two syringes in the playground outside the Veterans Memorial Elementary SchoolMembers of the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization, many of them young mothers, gathered Tuesday night to discuss the situation.”The custodian staff is on top of it and every day they check the grounds before the children arrive,” said Stephanie Puracchio, a PTO officer and mother of three. “We were planning a spring cleanup so it’s a good time to make parents aware of what’s going on.”According to Puracchio, Principal Uri Harel and Vice Principal Kelly Moss have been proactive since the needles were found beneath the monkey bars on the playground. “There is an article in our school newsletter about this, mostly to raise awareness. We also have a technician looking at the school surveillance cameras.”Jeannie Meredith, a mother of four, said the PTO has reached out to Greg Nickolas, the town’s director of Youth & Recreation, to devise a strategy on how to deal with the situation and better inform parents and students.”This is not just a PTO issue,” she said. “We want to see the whole community coming together. We have to make kids aware at an even younger age than before. Our goal is to educate the parents first and have them help educate their children. We need to protect our children.”Meredith said the problem of drug use and addiction isn’t new to Saugus. “But it’s new to us. It really hit home when they found syringes right here at the school,” she said. “The reality is, it’s here.”Puracchio said parents must become more involved in what their children are doing. “In Saugus, when you get a group of parents together, you know everybody. And there’s a very good chance we might know who is leaving these syringes behind,” she said.As Puracchio put it, the syringes most likely are not tossed by transients from the windows of passing cars. “Not when you consider where these needles were found,” she said.Denise Lane, another PTO officer, echoed that assessment. “We were very concerned when we found out the needles were in the playground where the little ones might have picked them up,” she said. “We have to education the little ones, but it has to be in an age-appropriate way. We don’t want to scare them.”Police Chief Domenic Dimella has stepped up patrols in the area, but the playground is set back from Hurd Avenue and not lighted.”It’s hard to see who’s back there,” said Lane.With the price of capsule prescription narcotics selling on the street for approximately $70, users are turning to cheap and plentiful heroin, which can be had for $5 a bag. Syringes, too, are easy to come by and no longer illegal to possess in Massachusetts. They can be purchased over the counter.Dimella said all these factors add to the problem.

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