KC neighborhood gets grant to clean up dirty syringes left on sidewalks, in parks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Kansas City neighborhood says it's getting fed up with trash and illegal dumping.

And if that's not bad enough, they're growing concerned with what's in some of those trash piles, with countless needles being found on sidewalks and neighborhood parks.

Dale Walker has lived in the Blue Valley area of Kansas City since 1973. It's geographically one of the largest neighborhoods in the city, running from Van Brunt to Interstate 435 and 12th Street to 40 Highway.

"We're the neglected side of Kansas City," said Walker, president of the Blue Valley Neighborhood Association.

He loves his community but knows it's been struggling.

"It's not safe to walk on the sidewalk. There's real crime over here that's really out of control, gunfire day and night. And it's not getting any better. It just keeps going down hill," Walker said.

But he and a group of dedicated volunteers are determined to make a difference. He picks up trash on neighborhood streets nearly every day.

"It's become a dumping ground for a lot of people. It's horrible," Walker said.

And sadly, he's noticed a troubling trend within the litter.

"A lot of needles. I don't touch those without gloves," Walker said.

Health experts say that's wise. Used syringes left lying around pose a big public health threat.

"Hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. An accidental needle stick has the potential to transmit those," said Frank Thompson, deputy director of the Kansas City, Missouri Health Department.

That's why the Blue Valley neighborhood is taking action.

"It's not healthy, and it's very serious, you know. Very serious," Walker said.

This week, the neighborhood was awarded a $2,600 grant through Alt-Cap's Neighborhoods Rising Fund.

It plans to hire specialized crews to help collect and properly dispose of dirty needles and would like to see a proper sharps disposal box installed in the area.

"All we can do is try to recover it best we can," Walker said.

Those are steps that will help improve the community's safety.

"I think it's vitally critical, both in terms of helping to address it from the perspective of advocating for services to be available for individuals who are addicted, as well as protecting the rest of the community from the dangers of those used needles, in particular our kids," Thompson said.

If you have a concern with needles in your neighborhood and want to help clean up, be sure to wear puncture-resistant gloves.

You can use something like tongs to safely pick up syringes, and put them into either a sharps container or an empty laundry jug with thick plastic to safely dispose of them.

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