A group of local residents concerned with the number of used drug needles littering public areas in Seymour is planning to do something about it.
Operation Sweep the Streets is a call to action for people to help clean up the community of trash and especially syringes being left in parks, neighborhoods, public restrooms, on sidewalks, in alleys, parking lots and other easily accessible areas.
Leading the charge is Tanner Sims, a resident who said he believes it will take public involvement to make the community cleaner and safer.
He plans to go out each month to clean up different parts of the city and is looking for people to join him.
Although he had originally planned to start with a 3-day event today through Wednesday, he said it will be pushed back a couple of weeks in order to bring in more people to help.
But he will get started on his own this week and anyone is welcome to participate, he said. Sweeps will begin at noon and he said all needles that are found will be taken to the Seymour Police Department.
“We’ll start at Shields Park and then hit Gaiser Park and Kessler Park,” he said. Although the focus is drug needles, he said other trash will be picked up too.
Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott advises anyone who finds a syringe to not touch it and instead report it to police.
Police receive calls daily about found needles and know how to collect and dispose of them safely, Abbott said.
A decade ago, officers came across syringes maybe once a year, Abbott added.
“Now, finding a syringe is fairly common,” he said. “It’s unfortunate as a society we have come to that level.”
Abbott applauds groups and individuals that want to help, but said they need to be careful and protect themselves.
Sims said the idea for Operation Sweep the Streets came out of his own fears for the safety of his young son and not wanting to see any child exposed to dangers such as being stuck by a needle while playing at the park.
The growing drug problem here and in other communities cannot be ignored and must be addressed by more than just law enforcement, he said.
“It saddens me that kids today as young as 11 and 12 are so exposed that they not only know what meth is but what it looks like, and how to use it,” he said.
Sims isn’t just pointing the finger of blame at drug users but at the community as a whole.
“We’ve let the use of hard drugs become such a normal thing,” he said. “Our tolerance for the use of these drugs has grown too far.”
Sims has also helped deliver bottled water to the residents of Flint, Michigan, because of their water water contamination issues.
Chelsie York said she plans to join efforts to clean up Seymour by taking her son and stepson out to help pick up trash. But instead of picking up needles on their own, York said she plans to call the police if they find any.
“We all should be more conscious of our community,” she said. “I think us taking responsibility in cleaning up is great. It would be cool if the city advertised and organized something big.”
For more information, visit #OpSweepTheStreets on Facebook.