WARSAW — Realizing they were throwing away more and more hypodermic needles — on track with rising heroin cases — Kosciusko County police installed a new tool to improve efficiency and possibly reduce disposal costs.
The Koscisuko County Sheriff’s Department purchased a $2,500 needle grinder, a machine, which as the name suggests, grinds used syringes and needles into little pieces.
The department previously disposed of the instruments by boxing them in so-called sharps containers — “sharps” being another word for needles, syringes and lancets — and then utilizing a service to handle the containers, Capt. Chris McKeand, department spokesman, said in an email.
With the grinder, the department can now shred needles and syringes, fill containers with the remnants, treat them with disinfectant and dispose of them apparently on site, according to McKeand. The upgrade could end up saving the county money in disposal service expenses, he added.
“I am not sure what savings we will actually see, but if we at least save the cost of the machine, we have improved the method we have of dealing with the issue,” McKeand said.
Members of the Kosciusko County Drug Task Force learned about needle grinders during a conference and urged the sheriff’s department to purchase one amid an increasing rate of needle disposals, McKeand said.
Police have collected more sharps from a growing number of heroin cases, and the devices piled on top of syringes used by medical staff at the Kosciusko County Jail in needing to be discarded.
“We have always had a large amount of needle disposals due to the medical staff in the Jail,” McKeand said in an email. “The heroin abuse spike of the past few years has seen the increase of needle involvement in criminal cases.”
He couldn’t say at what rate disposals climbed, explaining the department didn’t count all the needles that were thrown out.
The grinder will be used to scrap approximately 500 needles per month, coming from drug cases, medical use and from other police departments that wish to take advantage of the machine, McKeand estimated.
“I spoke to the jail nurse, and it is believed that 500 needles would be a close estimate to the number a month that will be destroyed,” he said.
The grinder could also help improve safety among personnel handling syringes during the disposal process as they’d be less likely to poke themselves on a needle tip.
“It is a safe way to dispose of the used needles,” McKeand said. “Once sent through the machine, there is no longer a risk of puncture.”
Exposure to used needles could potentially spread diseases, including HIV and hepatitis, according to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s webpage on disposing household syringes.
The needle grinder is available to other law enforcement agencies that want to use it. McKeand said.
Aimee Ambrose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 574-533-2151, ext. 316, or follow her on Twitter at @aambrose_TGN.