STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Local law enforcement voices concerns over needle exchange program

Local law enforcement has its concerns when it comes to the Tippecanoe County Needle Exchange Program and police say we can't be handing out needles without strict accountability.

Posted: Nov 3, 2017 10:16 AM
Updated: Nov 3, 2017 11:00 AM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — Local law enforcement has its concerns when it comes to the Tippecanoe County Needle Exchange Program and police say we can't be handing out needles without strict accountability.
"Everybody wants to see a reduction in Hep C and HIV," says Lafayette Chief of Police Patrick Flannelly.
But police say without tougher restrictions, this needle exchange program is going to do more harm than good.
"We are enabling people, currently through this program to do drugs in our community," West Lafayette Police Chief Jason Dombkowski said.
Take, for instance, this September case in Tapawingo Park.
"Seventy syringes, a complete drug kit in their possession, Narcan in their possession, all from the Health Department, uncapped needles, seven of them laying on the ground in the park is not something that is control based and it is not something that is safe for our community," explained Dombkowski.
So far, the Tippecanoe County Needle Exchange Program has 83 participants and has given away 4,475 free needles. As the number of participants increase, so will the number of needles.
"In the month of June alone, the Health Department in Monroe County, Bloomington, handed out 30,000 needles — 30,000. In a community that's similar to ours, and they received 20,000 back that month," said Dombkowski.

In Bloomington, Indiana, a storm drain was found clogged with needles (see image above). Right now, West Lafayette's storm drains don't look like that, but Chief Jason Dombkowski worries a needle exchange program with no accountability might change that.
"Forty-five hundred needles being handed out in our community and still have 2,200 out there claiming a 93 percent exchange rate is not a one-for-one exchange," said Dombkowski.
But the Health Department says that can't happen.
"One-for-one exchanges can often fall short in terms of disease prevention because you have to have a little bit of leeway for the human factor," Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler said. "I mentioned the average return rate for syringe exchange programs is 80 percent and probably no program in the country would have a 100 percent return rate."
Lafayette Police Chief Patrick Flannelly says if we're going to have a needle exchange program, he'd like to see every county get one.
"So that way, we have somewhere local to go, so we can direct people to resources locally so we don't create hubs where people will come," Flannelly explained.
He's trying to get rid of the drug trade here. Not add to it. "Anything that can be used in the drug trade eventually becomes a commodity and it can be traded and sold and bartered for drugs. Needles are a part of that equation," he added.
But in order to solve this problem, it's going to take some collaboration.
"Hopefully we are starting to have those conversations and starting to iron out some of those issues," said Adler.
Flannelly said, "We definitely want to partner and find ways to make sure that we keep this safe for everybody. For me, I think one of the best ways that we do that is just reduce the number of needles that are in circulation to begin with."
Dr. Jeremy Adler says we won't see proof of HIV and Hepatitis C decreases for quite some time. That's because more people are being tested, but also this program takes awhile to start making a significant difference.
But it's images like the one above that make law enforcement wonder if this program is worth the wait.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32078

Reported Deaths: 2004
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9268539
Lake3320168
Cass15826
Allen130966
St. Joseph120534
Hendricks113067
Hamilton111592
Johnson1086104
Elkhart105728
Madison58258
Porter49021
Bartholomew48133
Clark46138
LaPorte41522
Tippecanoe3753
Jackson3671
Howard36519
Delaware35735
Hancock32127
Shelby31521
Floyd31438
Boone28835
Morgan26224
Vanderburgh2482
Montgomery23117
White2268
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Grant19121
Noble18921
Harrison18721
Dubois1852
Greene16724
Warrick16426
Dearborn16421
Henry1619
Monroe16011
Vigo1477
Lawrence14423
Miami1391
Putnam1337
Jennings1274
Orange12422
Scott1183
Ripley1126
Franklin1068
Kosciusko941
Carroll922
Daviess8216
Steuben802
Marshall761
Newton7410
Wabash722
Wayne715
Fayette684
LaGrange602
Jasper581
Washington521
Fulton471
Rush452
Jay440
Randolph433
Jefferson411
Whitley402
Pulaski390
Clay391
Owen341
Brown331
Sullivan321
Starke313
DeKalb311
Perry260
Huntington262
Knox250
Tipton251
Benton250
Wells240
Crawford230
Blackford211
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Spencer171
Posey170
Parke170
Gibson142
Ohio130
Warren121
Adams121
Vermillion90
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0154
West Lafayette
Few Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 68°
Kokomo
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 68°
Rensselaer
Scattered Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 66°
Fowler
Scattered Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 66°
Williamsport
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 67°
Crawfordsville
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 62°
Frankfort
Scattered Clouds
67° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 67°
Delphi
Broken Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 64°
Monticello
Broken Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 64°
Logansport
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 66°
Some more storms ahead....
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events