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Used, dirty needles popping up in Olympia parks

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OLYMPIA — It’s an alarming trend that isn’t going away, used hypodermic needles are being found in parks all over the City of Olympia.

A city worker was pricked by one just last month and now officials are working hard to curb the problem before a child gets hurt.

Police say more than 200 used needles were found in city parks and bathrooms just since the beginning of June, and the hotspot appears to be at Percival Landing Park in downtown Olympia.

The playground is filled with kids running and playing but it’s what ground crews are finding that’s alarming local moms.

“I don’t have the answers but I don’t want my kid picking up a needle,” said mother Jennifer Valera.

“Our parks are one of our most treasured assets,” said Olympia Parks Director Paul Simmons. “We need to make sure they are safe and accessible.”

Used, dirty needles have been found in 27 out of 42 Olympia city parks. So far no kids have been hurt, but it’s an alarming issue for families who come here to play.

“That’s really scary, because you just saw her running that way a minute ago,” said Valera. “Toddlers don’t really listen.”

More than 750 loose needles and close to 550 pieces of drug paraphernalia were recovered in Olympia parks between August 2013 and May of 2014.

Even the sharps containers inside the city’s community center are not completely stopping the problem. The city says programs and revenue have suffered at the center because of the illegal activity.Employees there say they can’t focus on their jobs and they don’t feel safe.

But now the city is working on a plan to make the public areas safe for everyone.

“There’s increased walking patrols, we’ve increased security efforts in parks and community centers,” said Simmons.

But some families say the city must do more – before someone gets sick.

“I bet if she picked up a needle that would probably keep me away after that,” said Valera.

Police say wants the public find to dispose of dirty needles into a sharps container. But if you can’t find one of those, police advises the public to call the city and a staff member will dispose of the waste.

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