Four needles were stashed inside a hole in a play structure at Maven Lane and discovered by children at the daycare Jan. 6. (Maven Lane photo)

UPDATE: RCMP investigate after children poked by needles in Vernon playground

Stash of drug paraphernalia discovered by kids, despite safety checks

A group of children discovered several needles in their daycare playground recently, with some of them being poked.

Kids at Maven Lane’s Vernon location found a stash of narcotic paraphernalia hidden in the playground Friday, Jan. 6.

Staff said four needles were discovered and while they were believed to be clean, the children harmed are being tested.

“Unfortunately, in this instance, the children decided to investigate themselves rather than tell an adult. This led to children being inadvertently poked by needles,” said Maven Lane executive director Holly Henderson in a letter to families. “This discovery has been traumatizing for parents and staff alike. We cannot express our regret enough, and we remain hopeful that there are no long-term repercussions to this incident.”

According to RCMP, the children that were poked were taken to hospital for treatment and are awaiting test results. Response services suspect the needles were brand new/unused and stashed for future use.

Despite morning grounds inspections by staff at the daycare, this batch of needles was cleverly hidden, according Henderson.

“We are acutely aware that our location is in a low socio-economic neighbourhood, close to an outreach facility, and on a thoroughfare to the city centre. We have come to expect unwelcome visitors and we have practices in place to manage their effect.

“Most days there is something to tidy up. We have cleaned up needles, feces, homemade weapons, backpack contents, shopping cart contents, garbage, drugs, clothing; you name it, we’ve cleaned it up. If overnight guests are still here when we arrive in the morning, we politely ask them to move on, as the children will soon be arriving. Often this polite request is sufficient, but we have faced great aggression; anything from abusive language to full-scale arson as an act of revenge.”

For decades, the property where this incident occurred has been utilized by children and, prior to becoming a daycare, the site was an elementary school. Over the past few years, there has been a steady increase in services for Vernon’s street entrenched population in this area. As a result, locals have noticed an increase in the number of persons congregating in public spaces and on private property.

“Police conduct regular patrols of hot spot areas including this neighbourhood and respond to requests from the community to assist with unwanted persons. However, managing this issue is not solely the responsibility of the police,” said Inspector Blake MacLeod, operations officer for the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP. ”We work with City of Vernon bylaw officers who will attend to collect discarded drug paraphernalia in a safe manner and we meet regularly with local health authorities and non-profit organizations to discuss engagement with these clients at the ground level.”

The police continue to investigate the incident and will increase patrols in the area to dissuade unwanted persons from using the property for nefarious purposes. Anyone with information regarding this incident can call the non-emergency line at 250-545-7171 and quote file number 2023-276.

Maven Lane has even hired a security company which performs staggering visits seven days a week, installed surveillance cameras and night lighting and has a good relationship with neighbours who regularly report suspicious behaviour.

“We feel our team did their due diligence. Even if we had prevented this incident, we cannot guarantee there won’t be more ‘holes’ in the future. What we can do is better educate the children. We are currently expanding our safety check policy to actively involve the children in daily checks as well as involving them in the ‘reporting’ of findings – giving them more agency in the process and a feeling of empowerment when it comes to ensuring safety.”

But the situation is concerning.

“Our children should not be paying the price for the community’s safety issues. We don’t expect to live in a city that never has any danger, but the frequency and level of danger that we face every day is not acceptable.”

Maven Lane has received many offers of support and in a follow up letter to families says, “we are requesting that you use your outrage, disappointment, dismay, concern, and fear to advocate on the children’s behalf. Use your connections to reach the people that influence and make decisions concerning this community.

“Our need is one of safety, and if we can get that established, we can carry on the important work of play!”

READ MORE: Vernon to release reclaimed water in lake

READ MORE: Temporary homeless shelter moves to warehouse off 25th Avenue


@VernonNews
newsroom@vernonmorningstar.com

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Four needles were stashed inside a hole in a play structure at Maven Lane and discovered by children at the daycare Jan. 6. (Maven Lane photo)

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