Published: 06:01, 14 September 2021
| Updated: 14:52, 14 September 2021
Hundreds of used needles were found discarded near a children's play area in Maidstone by volunteer litter-pickers.
The grim discoveries were made during a litter-pick by North Ward Liberal Democrats on the Ringlestone estate.
Most of the needles, numbering in their hundreds, were contained within 'sharps boxes', while unused hypodermic syringes, vitamin C pills, antiseptic swabs and packaging were loose in carrier bags.
They had been left close to the Dickens Road Open Space, which includes a play area for young children and a separate area for older kids.
The discovery has worried Dickens Road residents. One grandmother in her 60s said: "This will be very worrying for mums with young kids. I certainly won't be letting by granddaughter play there in future when she comes to visit."
Cllr Tony Harwood, who made the discovery on Saturday, said: "The use of sharp boxes and carrier bags suggests that the injecting paraphernalia was used elsewhere and then deliberately dumped in Dickens Road.
"The risk to curious youngsters and wildlife was all too obvious."
He said: "It would have taken very little time and trouble to have disposed safely of these needles. Indeed, deliberately taking these bags of needles to the play area must have taken more effort."
Although on this occasion, the needles seem to have been fly-tipped, residents said it was not the first time needles had been found at the park, left by local drug users.
One resident said he had once stumbled across three teenage girls injecting themselves in an alleyway leading to the rear of his home.
Another said there had historically been a lot of drug use in the area and said she had witnessed drug deals taking place on the street.
However, she said the situation had improved about six months ago when some residents had taken it into their own hands to stop up local alleyways, depriving users and dealers of their escape routes.
But, she said, there was still occasional problems with anti-social behaviour at the play area itself, because it was down a dip and out of sight of even the houses immediately opposite.
After finding the needles, a more exhaustive search of the entire area was carried out but no more syringes were found.
Other detritus removed from the popular open space during the clean-up included furniture, a mattress, bicycles, a scooter, tyres, a pushchair and countless bottles and cans.
Cllr Harwood said: "It was particularly time-consuming to clear the bottles, cans and micro-plastic that had been smashed or shredded by the council's mowing machinery."
Kent Police and Maidstone council have been informed of the fly-tipping of the used needles.