National Drug Official Pays a Visit to Huntington
Drug and law enforcement officials were in Huntington Wednesday as the Huntington Police department outlined their fight.
The National Drug Control Policy Acting Director Michael Botticelli was in Huntington Wednesday with Congressman Nick Rahall to take a look at the efforts being made by the Huntington Police Department to fight the use and trafficking of illegal drugs. Captain Hank Dial gave an overview.
“What we had in Fairfield and Weed and Seed was were fighting open air drug markets and crack cocaine, now it has shifted to diverted pills and heroin and we did not see an increase in crime in the West End, but we did not see the decreases we saw in the rest of the city,” Dial said.
From 2008 to 2010 Huntington established a Weed and Seed program in the Fairfield area of Huntington.
Its purpose was to weed out drugs and crime and plant seeds of community action. At the time the Weed and Seed Area in Fairfield contained only 20% of Huntington’s population, but accounted for 60% of murders, 77% of prostitution arrests and 44% of adult drug crimes. Since implementing approaches like Weed and Seed, this area has seen a reduction of 28% in violent crime and a 35% decrease in drug offenses. National Drug Control Policy Acting Director Michael Botticelli.
“One of the reasons that we came here with the congressman was to also look at the really innovative and collaborative programs that are happening here at the local level, one of the functions of our office is to set federal policy, but to also ensure that community’s like Huntington get the resources they need to be able to implement programs like this and it’s really been impressive,” Botticelli said.
Huntington police are no focusing on the West End, which Botticelli and others toured Wednesday. Police have taken lessons they’ve learned from Weed and Seed and are trying to replicate those successes here. The River to Rail program as they call their effort in the West End started in 2012 and is still on going. Huntington officials say that the drugs in those areas are coming from Columbus, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan. Botticelli said at the federal level they’re working on ways to track prescription medicine.
“One of the things that we’re looking at is state level databases that actually track prescription prescribing and one of the initiatives that we’re working on is to make sure these databases can talk and so what we want to make sure is that we’re sharing that information across state lines,” Botticelli said.
During a four month period in 2013 in the West End there were 38 arrests made, confiscation of 242 grams of heroin and more than $18,000 dollars seized. Much like the efforts during the Weed and Seed Fight, the efforts are based on law enforcement and community engagement. Congressman Nick Rahall said the efforts made in Huntington affect much of the southern part of the state, because much of the drugs come through Huntington.
“This is a major artery where they come from the Midwestern states, Michigan, Detroit and they come right down through here and sometimes Huntington isn’t there only stop and they’ll continue into southern West Virginia. Huntington is crucial in this battle against drugs in West Virginia,” Rahall said.
The tour of Huntington also took Botticelli and Rahall to the Healing Place rehabilitation facility and to Cabell Huntington Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care unit where addicted babies are cared for. Rahall also hosted a roundtable discussion on the topic in Beckley Wednesday night.