10 May 2023

Uncapped needles found on popular sporting oval

| Sarah Martin
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VOLUNTEERS are being forced to scour a sports oval before matches and training following the discovery of uncapped needles and drug paraphernalia inside locked buildings and on the field at Cooktown’s John Street Oval.

The oval is home to the Cooktown District Junior Rugby League Club and president Teila Winton said her family and the extended football community were disgusted.

“We are extremely upset that the area is being defiled in this way,” she said.

“We have kids as young as six playing on and around the field two to three times a week, and knowing it is now becoming unsafe is really disturbing.

“We have had to call on volunteers and the community to ensure the safety of the area each training and game day.”

Cook Shire Council, which manages the John Street Oval, fast-tracked plans to install motion-activated cameras at the site in response to the situation.

“Council had been aware that there had been an increase in unsavoury behaviour at the oval at night and already had plans to install the CCTV cameras when the recent incidents took place,” mayor Peter Scott said.

“These incidents expedited plans and we’ve now installed motion activated CCTV cameras on the oval lights and change room facilities, with blue lights and a sharps box due to be installed at the old toilet block in coming weeks.”

Senior Sergeant John McArthur said the safety of oval users, many of whom are children, was paramount.

“Cooktown Police will be increasing surveillance and drive-by patrols in the area,” he said.

“We will also be door knocking the neighbourhood to make people aware of what has been happening.

“We encourage anyone who sees anything suspicious to report it to police.”

Cr Scott, who has lived in Cooktown for more than 20 years and was a former president of the junior rugby league club, said it was unfathomable why anyone would leave needles in a community space.

“John Street Oval is much-loved and it’s really busy at this time of year,” he said.

“The cameras will help deter this sort of behaviour from happening again, and if it does, the footage will assist the police in identifying the culprits.”

Cook Shire Council is also planning to roll out CCTV cameras in other public locations.

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