Two weeks after Bangor police charged two men involved in running an unauthorized syringe exchange in Pickering Square and temporarily shut the operation down, volunteers returned to the square Friday to hand out free doses of the overdose antidote naloxone.
While volunteers with Needlepoint Sanctuary Bangor were back in Pickering Square — where police two weeks earlier had seized the group’s clean syringes, charged the two men and issued no-trespassing orders to two other volunteers — their primary business appeared to be distributing naloxone and free food.
Dave Carvagio, a volunteer with the group who declines to use his real name, would not say whether volunteers were handing out clean syringes to drug users in addition to naloxone and food.
The police action against the group, which had been running an unauthorized syringe exchange for nearly a year, had scared off some regular users of the group’s services, Carvagio said.
“What we’re experiencing is a chilling effect of the police crackdown,” he said. “The usual people that rely on our exchange are not coming up to us.”
At the same time, he said, the crackdown resulted in a larger number of volunteers. However, the two men police charged Aug. 23 — Zach Campbell and Martin Chartrand — and the others who received no-trespassing orders were not in Pickering Square on Friday.
The charges came months after the group of volunteers started regularly handing out clean syringes and naloxone in Pickering Square, even though the group did not have a state permit to operate as a mobile syringe exchange. Bangor police had not charged any of the group’s volunteers in connection with running the exchange until two weeks ago.
The exchange was initially run by a group called the Church of Safe Injection. The Bangor chapter of the church handed out more than 600 kits of naloxone and hundreds of clean syringes in its first six months of operation.
Carvagio said Friday that the group will continue handing out naloxone in Pickering Square even though some members have been banned from that area. That’s the place where the group can most effectively serve people, he said.
“The majority of the Bangor community that comes down to meet us — even though they’re against it at first — come around when they see we’re helping people,” he said.
Sgt. Wade Betters of the Bangor Police Department said, “We have no objection to them handing out Narcan.”