ALMOST 450 needles were taken off Taunton’s streets during a community blitz on Sunday to reduce the impact of legal high abuse.

There were also uniformed and plain-clothed police patrols on Saturday, when three people received dispersal orders to prevent anti-social behaviour, keeping them out of the town centre for 24 hours.

Sunday’s community activity started in Victoria Park, with uniformed personnel, police cadets, 20 volunteers from anti-legal high campaign group South West Action Group, councillors and staff from Taunton Deane Council, six drug clean-up specialists from Taunton Association for the Homeless and nine offenders doing unpaid community payback work.

They found.

• Rear of Vivary Park - 300 needles.

• Victoria Park – 43.

• Canon Street Car Park – 15.

• Goodland Gardens to French Weir – 43.

• Residential areas around Victoria Park – 19.

• Other locations – 21.

A large amount of associated rubbish was removed.

Taunton Town Centre beat manager PC Jim Breakwell said: “We've noticed over the last year that legal highs are being openly injected by abusers in public places because it is a legal activity - Class A drug users will generally not do it because of the risk of arrest, which explains why we have seen an increase in the number of needles found in parks and toilets.

“It was a fantastically well-supported weekend of action.

“The number of needles recovered shows that Taunton still experiences a legal high problem but we demonstrated there is determination to overcome it.

“I was quite surprised at how many needles we found, but the majority of them were in an area not particularly accessible to the public, right at the back of Vivary Park.”

Rebecca Pow, who is standing for the Conservatives in Taunton Deane at next May’s General Election, joined the initiative.

She said: “I was sickened to find needles thrown under benches, into bushes and undergrowth in places regularly frequented by our children.

“The needles we found are dangerous, carry germs and are indicative of the enormity of the problem - we absolutely have to deal with this appalling blight not just on Taunton but on Wellington too where needles are also being found in public places.”