City says needles found often in parks, doesn't keep count of number

City says needles found often in parks, doesn't keep count of number »Play Video

SOUTHWEST PORTLAND, Ore. -- A five-year-old girl was tested for HIV after stabbing herself with a syringe she found at Waterfront Park. Since KATU first broadcast her story last weekend, KATU’s On Your Side Investigators have heard reports of needles being found in other parks in Portland.

Mark Ross, a spokesman for Portland Parks & Recreation, says the department doesn’t keep count of how many times syringes are found in parks, but admits it happens often.

"Staff say needles are found quite a bit,” Ross said. “Sometimes several times a week, sometimes every day for a while."

Ross says parks are checked often but there's only so much the city can do about the problem.

Last weekend, Ali Hurd told KATU her five-year-old daughter picked up a used syringe in Waterfront Park near the Hawthorne Bridge.

“She just put it straight in her thigh,” Hurd said, “and then my husband rolled up her pants and saw there was a puncture wound.”

Doctors say so far the girl's all right, but they'll have to wait to properly test her for HIV and Hepatitis B and C because it's too soon to check for those conditions.

Christy Asmus, another mother, told KATU she witnessed a similar story play out in Essex Park in Southeast Portland when a little boy was poked by a syringe he found.

Ross says the city has about two dozen park rangers. More than half of them are seasonal or part-time. The department asked to make nine of them full-time this year but says the mayor turned them down.

“Would we like more people? Absolutely,” Ross said. “Would it solve the problem of finding needles in a park? No."

Ross says rangers and other park employees check Waterfront Park three to four times a day, and that all of the city's 200+ parks are checked often.

“We would love to have improvements in lighting and benches and a million other improvements in our parks, but we are grossly underfunded," Ross said.

Although the city doesn’t keep count of the number of times syringes are found, Ross says there's no indication the problem has been getting any worse.

KATU is in the process of filing a public records request to see what its’ On Your Side Investigators can find, and will report that information as soon as it becomes available.