A New Bedford City Councillor wants to begin proactively addressing the issue of discarded hypodermic needles in the city.

Councillor at Large Ian Abreu says discarded needles have become an epidemic in city streets, parks, and playgrounds. Abreu's motion calls for needle drop boxes throughout the downtown and other heavily trafficked areas in the city, where users and concerned citizens can safely discard needles.

Abreu tells WBSM News just last week he saw two dirty needles on the grounds of Custom House Square, and thinks drop boxes send a better message to visitors than needles in the street. "What looks worse to a tourist or to a visitor, a red box or a used needle flung about in our Custom House Square," asked Abreu.

The councillor says he regularly volunteers with Operation Clean Sweep, participating in neighborhood cleanups during the fair-weather months. During his rounds, Abreu says it's not uncommon to come across used hypodermic needles. "If I don't come across three to four, maybe five needles sometimes in a cleanup, I'm surprised. We're always coming up on needles and we pick them up ourselves."

If passed, Abreu says the dropboxes would be accompanied by an educational component, teaching residents the proper way to handle and dispose of dirty needles.

Abreu says the initiative is based on the Neighborhood Needle Recovery Program in Vancouver.

It will be discussed formally at Thursday night's City Council meeting.