BOSTON - A young child was pricked by a needle in the North End while playing after school late last week. It happened just steps from the Eliot School in a public park where many kids play.
That elementary student now has to endure a series of tests.
Parents and neighbors both tell Boston 25 News that they routinely complain about open drug use and dealing at the park.
The student who attends the school was poked by a discarded needle that was hidden in a flower planter.
"We can't even protect our children, that's sad," said Josephine Piazza, a neighbor.
It's a health scare that could happen anywhere. But what happened to a child playing after school in the North End is not being taken lightly by neighbors.
"Yeah it makes me mad, but what are you going to do?" asked Piazza.
"This is a problem," said one anonymous neighbor. "This park here is a huge problem, it's just been redone and it's a huge Mecca for heroin addicts for dealing heroin."
That neighbor was one of many people who described a concerning pattern of drug use at the Paul Revere Mall, known as "The Prado," which just underwent a $3 million revitalization this past summer.
The outdoor urban plaza connects Hanover Street to the Old North Church on the Freedom Trail and sees lots of foot traffic. It's also a popular spot for recess and after school activities.
"Out there every night people are doing heroin, all night people are selling heroin all night," that neighbor said. "People are living out there, nothing’s being done about it."
"If you want to take a drug, I can't stop you," said Carmen Malone, another neighbor. "But at least have enough brains to get the needle and dispose of [it] somewhere where it’s not going to hurt anybody."
As the Eliot Elementary student who was poked after school now faces a series of tests to check for serious illnesses, the community questions if enough is being done to prevent it from happening again.
A Boston Public School spokesman says the district will likely be sending letters home this week to parents, just to make sure they are aware.
The district points out that students are taught about the dangers of discarded needles through the program called "Stop, turn and tell."
Several parents and neighbors tell Boston 25 News that they plan on taking their concerns to the regularly scheduled public safety meeting with Boston Police District A-1 on Thursday.
Mayor Marty Walsh also gave a statement to Boston 25 regarding the incident:
It is completely unacceptable for young children in the City of Boston to be exposed to needles of any kind, particularly while they are at school. We have taken steps to protect our students from the harm of the opioid epidemic by increasing the capacity of the Mobile Sharps Unit, prioritizing substance use education and prevention, and training staff on how to properly dispose of any encountered needle.
This isn't the first time a student has been exposed to a needle near a Boston school. Boston 25 News has been following stepped up efforts to monitor for needles at Orchard Gardens School in Roxbury after a child was pricked during recess.
The concerns there continue. Parents hope a new fence along the Melnea Cass Boulevard side of the school will help protect children.
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