THE ‘DARKER side of Leamington’ has come to light after hundreds of used needles discarded by drug addicts were found in the town.
A group of volunteers known as Leam Trash Friends formed three weeks ago and have been busy clearing up rubbish and fly-tipping.
But they were shocked to discover the number of needles dumped by drug takers. They have found hundreds of needles in a half mile radius around Leamington’s Old Town – some within 50 yards of a primary school. In one pick alone they came across 400 in an alley off Radford Road.
A group spokesman told the Observer: “A number of needles were found along the pavement where any small child could have fallen and been pricked by one.
“Alarmingly these 400 needles were found within a metre square space. We took about an hour clearing them up, carefully picking up each needle.
“Bearing in mind the needles were used, this obviously poses a massive health risk to everyone in the area.
“We are starting to see a darker side of Leamington.”
The volunteers move the needles into a sharps bin – to safely contain them – and then give the container to police or Warwick District Council to dispose of.
But the volunteers say the council sometimes refuses to take them.
The group spokesman – who did not wish to be named – said: “We are currently in a stalemate with Warwick District Council over the used needle problem and currently have 430 used needles without disposal options.
The council says whether it collects the needles depends where they were found.
A spokesman said: “If we receive a report of needles on the highway or on council land we ensure these are removed as a priority within 24 hours.
“If the report is of needles on private property it would be the responsibility of the landowner to make arrangements for their disposal.”
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western recently met with Leam Trash Friends and says while he appreciates their work the responsibility should fall on councils and police.
He told the Observer: “I am extremely concerned about these reports – there is a clear public safety issue here.
“I appreciate Leam Trash Friends’ desire to sort out this mess. Clearly there has been a lack of priority given by local agencies and I realise this is due to budget cuts in particular the dramatic cut in police officers and insufficient budget for refuse collecting and clearing.
“It should not be for local people to have to do this. Litter and drug-related crime are responsibilities of the councils together with the police. I understand local councillors are engaging with the group to tackle the root causes of this problem.”
Leam Trash Friends is calling for donations to buy equipment to help continue its work and for more people to sign up and volunteer.
Visit www.gofundme.com/street-clearance to donate or search ‘Leam Trash Friends’ on Facebook for more information.