‘Zombie land’: Used syringes litter section of Melrose

Residents and workers in a section of Melrose say used needles from drug users are littering the ground. Some have started to call the area “zombie land.”
News 12 spoke with people on Canal Place where they told their stories about encounters with used syringes in the area.
George Santana says he accidentally pricked himself with a needle while cleaning up a stretch of Canal Place between East 144th and East 146th streets last summer.
“I was just doing my job, had gloves on and everything, but it still penetrated me…I had to go to the doctor and get treated,” he told News 12.
Santana works at the Boom Health Harm Reduction Center, which is across the street from where many gather to use drugs. He heads out of his office, five days a week, with a trash picker and basket in hand to collect any drug paraphernalia he can find.
He told News 12 that he collected about 2,000 needles two weeks ago.
Outside Boom Health is a needle deposit box, where syringes can be tossed out with no questions asked. It's part of the center’s "syringe exchange program," which offers clean needles to drug users to keep diseases from spreading.
Santana, a recovering addict, is calling on the city to do more to keep those who use off the streets while they do so.
A proposal involving “safe injection rooms” was suggested by Mayor Bill de Blasio last year, but it hasn’t moved forward.
The Sanitation Department sent News 12 a statement saying, “Anyone who finds a syringe on a public street or sidewalk should call 311 immediately. We will investigate and an officer from our environmental police unit will collect any found syringes and ensure their proper, safe disposal."
The Department of Social Services said they were working to get News 12 more information regarding outreach to the Melrose area.