Kamloops businesses mixed on prospect of new needle registry program

By Chad Klassen
April 15, 2019 - 4:45pm Updated: April 15, 2019 - 6:18pm

KAMLOOPS — On a daily basis, Mark Lester is finding needles on the back patio of Ruebin's diner on Tranquille Road. 

"From frequency as little as one per day to up to five or more," he said. "There's always the chance that I'm walking out and there are needles."

Lester and the rest of the staff at Ruebin's feel they're fighing this battle alone.

"It really feels like we have no support from the city or other potential things out there for us," noted Lester, who's a cook at Ruebin's. "We've had the city drop off [needle] boxes in this style and that style, but we've been told to leave them outside, and with that we just have people stealing them."

However, the North Shore Business Improvement Association has been working to improve the situation, coming up with a needle registry program where businesses and residents can go online and identify problem areas around the city. Feedback will help to create a needle hot-spot map to get a better idea of how resources can be utilized.

"Where are the hot spots for needles? How are they being collected? Who's collecting them?" asked NSBIA executive director Jeremy Heighton. "What we've come to understand is we have some rough data, some ideas from CAP teams, some ideas from [Interior Health]. We want to try and create a program that has the most robust information."

Owner of Sorriso Restaurant and Bruno's Cold Beer & Wine Store Renato Uliana says the needle situation behind his businesses on Tranquille has improved slightly. But he contends a registry won't clean up the city. 

"I don't want that stigma of people avoiding certain areas in Kamloops because that's where all the needs are," he said. "It's going to bring a negative stigma to the area, so I don't know if that's a solution."

Uliana doesn't know what the solution is. Interior Health has noted it is not responsible for cleaning up needles, but with this new registry, the NSBIA says it's working towards a solution, not only for the North Shore but the entire city.

"What we don't always understand effectively is, yes, there are needles here or needles there, but are there 20 needles there every day, is there one need once a month? What's the exposure like?" said Heighton.

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