A very brief description did not provide much context for the image, simply stating that the photograph was captured in Los Angeles in 2019:
Needles, Los Angeles, 2019.
One day later, Pomona’s Patch page also shared the image, captioned, “The norm in California now. Getting worse by the day”:
In response to questions about the provenance and relevance of the photograph, the Patch page suggested that that information was not important:
it is in our backyard. And our front yard. It’s a crisis. Across the State. Don’t ignore it.
The same day, someone posted the photograph to Reddit’s r/trashy. No photographs we could find provided any contextual information for the image accompanied it:
Many of the commenters lamented homelessness and the existence of methadone clinics. Many people sharing or commenting on the image suggested that homeless individuals or drug users commonly discard used syringes in such volume that streets were littered in the manner seen in the photograph. However, others noted that the detritus looked unused or otherwise unlike the result of street drug use, as though it had spilled into the street, not been tossed. The event or events preceding the image remained unknown, and it was unlikely the photograph represented accumulated used needles.
Previously viral Facebook posts similarly claimed that a mountain of discarded syringes was found in San Francisco (it was gathered as a visual aid to a press conference, not “found,” and that press conference was in Washington state, not San Francisco), and that images showed the effects of homelessness and drug use across California (they mostly did not.) Posts of this sort typically serve as engagement-bait, allowing pages to leverage angst about the opioid crisis in order to accrue angry comments and shares. It is therefore not uncommon for claims like the original post to be exaggerations or misrepresentations disseminated to capitalize on general complaints about drugs or homelessness.
We identified the date and location for the photograph of purportedly discarded syringes, and have contacted local organizations to request information about the image and claim. We will update with any further information.