A couple on Milwaukee’s south side said a used needle on a sidewalk pierced their dog’s paw on Tuesday.
They were walking their dog, JD, at the intersection of 14th Street and Cleveland Avenue, when he yelped.
“We looked down and there was the syringe sticking out of his paw,” said Kodi Lillie.
“Heroin or whatever else they’re doing with it who knows,” said Lillie.
JD is fine. But Lillie and his fiancé, Christina Lawrence, are frustrated and said needles are littering streets all over their neighborhood.
“There were some up on 13th and Harrison. There were two laying right in front of a garbage can. It’s nasty, pick them up!” Lillie said.
Rafael Mercado volunteers with the community group Team Havoc. He’s hit the streets on the city’s south side many times before picking up used needles.
“You can go anywhere around here and for $5 get a hit of heroin,” said Mercado.
Mercado said the problem might be getting worse with a new needle exchange program on the south side with non-profit, United Migrant Opportunity Services or UMOS.
Every Wednesday, drug users can exchange ten used needles for sterile ones. The program is aimed to reduce the risk of HIV and hepatitis C which can occur with sharing dirty needles. First-time clients don’t have to bring in old syringes.
Mercado believes the program needs to be monitored.
“Mark these syringes, be accountable for them, put your name on those ten syringes,” said Mercado.
When TODAY’S TMJ4 asked UMOS about syringes littering the streets, the group sent us this statement:
“We acknowledge this is a controversial program, similar to the controversial practice of the distribution of condoms to help prevent HIV/AIDS.
Data has shown this to be an effective method in reducing HIV/AIDS. Data has also shown the needle exchange program as an effective method in reducing HIV and Hepatitis C infections and a way to provide information on treatment methods.
On the issue of uncollected needles littering the streets, we are collaborating with the Milwaukee Police Department, the DA’s Office, our alderman, as well as our community partners, ARCW and Sixteen Street Community Center on various ideas to reduce or prevent the issue of littering.
One such idea is the use of secure mailbox type disposal units placed in targeted areas. Other ideas will continue to be explored among community partners to resolve this issue.
We view this littering issue as an important one that we are working to resolve. We also view saving lives as paramount," said Rod Ritcherson, the Special Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer at UMOS.
Christina Lawrence and Kodi Lillie hope action is taken before one of these used syringes gets in the wrong hands like a child’s.