CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Police sifted through what appeared to be the temporary home of a vagrant inside a storage shed in the back of a Charleston business. Owners of the business on the city’s east end made the discovery Friday. The storage shed appeared to have been broken into and they contacted police. Inside, Charleston Police Chief Steve Cooper, said his officers found evidence of somebody living and using drugs.
“It smells like methamphetamine and there are approximately 100 needles or more,” he said. “Some are unopened packages of needles, some are obviously very bloody.”
Cooper could not say how many people may have been staying inside the shed. He doubted it could be more than one or two.
Among the blankets and dirty syringes were numerous unopened bags of clean needles. Police say they are the same packages given out in the Kanawha Charleston Health Department’s needle exchange program.
“There appear to be about 80 or 90 unopened needles in packages,” Cooper said. “I don’t know exactly how many there are, but there’s at least 80 or 90 unopened and we’ve got 20 or 25 dirty, sharp and bloody ones.”
A thick chemical smell filled the air around the storage building. Cooper said the smell was evidence of meth use.
City police began to carefully pick apart the remnants of blankets and other materials left inside in hopes of finding evidence to identify the culprit. The discovery is becoming routine, according to Cooper, for both the Charleston Police and Charleston Fire Departments as the number of homeless in Charleston grows.
This week Mayor Danny Jones announced he planned to push for an ordinance change starting next week to criminalize possession of the needles and syringes making them illegal drug paraphernalia. If passed, the ordinance would end the health department’s needle exchange program.
Health Department officials in response to the Mayor’s proposal issued a statement Thursday announcing there would be a comprehensive review of the harm reduction program including the needle exchange component.