COMMUNITY groups and police officers are being called out to collect used needles dumped in public parks, canal paths and residential streets in Kidderminster.

West Mercia Police received 45 calls reporting dumped needles in the Wyre Forest area last year and officers attended 12 incidents involving discarded needles, while community groups are increasingly being relied upon to collect needles and syringes - a service typically provided by the district council.

Recent photographs posted by members of the public on social media show needles and wrappers discarded at Habberley Valley Local Nature Reserve, outside shops in Kidderminster town centre and even by a local primary school.

Michelle Medler, founder of local litter picking group The Pickup Artists, said members are called out at all times of the night to dispose of needles found in public spaces.

"Last summer, it was terrible," she said. "At the moment the weather seems to be putting drug takers off doing it in public as much but I do worry it's going to get worse as we get closer to summer.

"There is a hotspot down by the canal by Sainsbury's. It's so bad you couldn't go in there without steel toe cap shoes because chances are you're going to tread on something nasty.

"We've been there and cleared so many needles, it's unreal. But now it's got so bad that we can't go in there. It needs a specialist team. The problem is definitely worse in Kidderminster.

"It's not something the council has asked us to do - we're happy to help take the pressure off. But when there are people leaving needles around at night and kids need to go to school the next day, there has to be an out-of-hours service."

The Shuttle submitted a Freedom of Information request to Wyre Forest District Council but was told the council did not record the number of calls it received reporting discarded needles and could not say how many incidents involved people being injured.

The council's corporate director for community, well being and environment, Linda Draycott, said: “I can reassure the public that needles are collected and disposed of safely by our cleansing teams when areas are routinely cleaned or when the public or an organisation phones through an issue.

“The council will provide sharps boxes to groups or organisations to dispose of needles and collect free of charge.

"We don’t routinely collect data specifically about needle collection but we work closely with partners to address the wider issues associated with drugs and substance misuse, which are often very complex.

“This work is co-ordinated by the council’s Community Safety Team and Safer Wyre Forest tasking group and includes representatives from Wyre Forest District Council, West Mercia Police, Swanswell, The Community Housing Group, Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, town councils, The ContinU Trust, and Kidderminster and Bewdley Street Pastors.

“We appreciate the work of other organisations who support the council in keeping the place safe, clean and looking good and we provide equipment and guidance to groups who also pick up litter, including needles.

“We encourage people to report any issues on the council’s website.”

Discarded needles can be reported to the council on 01562 732528, or to The Pickup Artists via social media.