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Saugus meeting to focus on syringe situation

SAUGUS – Fed up with illegal drug users who discard hypodermic needles and syringes in schoolyards, parks and on busy street corners, a group of PTO mothers is holding a public meeting Thursday at which parents, police and concerned residents can voice their concerns.Jeannie Meredith, co-president of the Veterans Memorial Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO), said the situation is out of hand and action must be taken to remedy it.”The problem of drugs is everywhere and it’s right here in Saugus, too,” said Meredith. “We need to stop it because when people start using heroin they’re addicted for life. It ruins whole families because the problem doesn’t go away. We have to start teaching children from a very young age about the dangers of drug abuse.”The public furor surrounding discarded needles was heightened in April when resident and Essex County Deputy Sheriff Joseph Goldstein found two syringes with needles near the monkey bars outside the Veterans School while walking with his pre-school-age daughter. Goldstein photographed the needles and complained to police.Since the incident, police have stepped up patrols in the neighborhood.Meredith said the play area at the Veterans School is difficult to see from the street and not lighted at night. “If it was lighted, the people doing this wouldn’t congregate there,” she said.The meeting will be held at the Veterans Memorial Elementary School on Hurd Avenue at 7 p.m.Selectman Scott Crabtree said town officials have been invited.”We want to find a solution and I believe communication is key,” said Crabtree, who last week attended a meeting of the Veterans School Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) where parents were outraged over the discovery of the two discarded syringes on the school playground. “We need to get the community involved and get everyone talking to each other.”Crabtree brought along Saugus Police Detective Kevin Murphy to answer questions from the PTO members and others in the audience. Murphy will also be present at the meeting on Thursday.The PTO mothers have also reached out to Greg Nickolas, director of the town’s Youth & Recreation Department, for his advice on how to address the problem. According to Meredith, Nickolas has agreed to attend the public meeting.Crabtree said Friday he has discussed the situation with town officials. “We are looking at bids to upgrade the surveillance cameras at the school,” he said. “We’re also talking about installing lighting on the playground.”According to Crabtree, Police Chief Domenic Dimella has ordered increased patrols in the neighborhood. “The police will initiate a security survey of the play area and the school grounds, assessing the overall safety and security, the lighting and other factors,” he said. “Once that is done, the police will put together a report for the selectmen.”Among the ideas to suppress drug activity in the area is creating a neighborhood watch group comprised of PTO members, police, neighbors and others, said Crabtree, noting issues plaguing the school include drug activity, vandalism, graffiti and trash.”The Department of Public Works and the custodians are trying to handle the trash down there,” he said.

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