Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Soddy-Daisy needs community participation in the city’s fight against drugs and crime; that was the sentiment expressed by city commissioners and members of the Police Department at a community meeting held March 9 in Soddy-Daisy City Hall.
“We need your help knowing where these problems are at,” said Lt. Jeff Gann of the city’s drug dealers, thieves and gang members. “We’ve got to step up and work as a group.”
The meeting was called by Commissioner Geno Shipley after he and other city officials attended a community meeting in Hixson focused on the area’s gang problem.
Soddy-Daisy Police Sgt. Marty Bowman said students in gangs can be difficult to distinguish.
“They don’t wear their colors like they used to,” he said.
Teachers are often limited by restrictions as to what they can say to students and what they can ask, said Lt. Mike Sneed.
“We feel these students are seeded out here,” said Chief Phil Hamrick of students in gangs downtown that want to widen their customer base, which he said they accomplish by getting members to transfer to schools in the suburbs.
Bowman said the department has a very good relationship with the city’s schools, which they regularly patrol for drugs.
The problem of prescription drug use was also a major topic of concern raised at the public meeting. Hamrick said one of his officers recently pulled over a vehicle containing 950 prescription pills. One woman had picked up 450 pills, all of which were legally prescribed to her that day by the same doctor at a pain clinic in East Ridge.
“All that stuff was packaged up to be sold,” said Hamrick.
Sneed said many kids are starting the habit of illicit prescription drug use early.
“It’s not uncommon at the middle school [that students] are handing [pills] out, and they don’t know what they’re taking,” he said.
Gann warned residents to keep pills hidden away from young children, and to be wary of young adults who may come by to “check in” but really just want to check the medicine cabinet.
The Police Department is working on a program that would allow citizens to drop off old medications so they can be disposed of properly and kept out of the wrong hands.
Citizens are encouraged to notify the Police Department of suspicious activity, such as frequent traffic at a particular home or a strange car parked on their street.
“We get a lot of calls and it makes a difference — more than what people think,” said Sneed, adding that 97 percent of crime is drug- or alcohol-related and around 99 percent of people he arrests for drugs are repeat offenders.
He said people may not see results right away, but should rest assured their information is not being ignored by investigators.
“We have to have a reliable witness [who makes a purchase] on the premises who has seen narcotics in that residence,” said Sneed of the restrictions placed on officers despite their awareness of a problem. “We have a list of places we have complaints on and a list of everyone we can find who’s associated with that circle.”
He said methamphetamine continues to be a problem.
“A lot of ice is being shipped here, which is the Mexican version of meth,” said Sneed.
Gann discussed the Neighborhood Watch program, encouraging citizens to name a neighborhood liaison to the Police Deparment and to set up a phone list of all their neighbors.
“Just start communicating; communicate with each other and communicate with us,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt to actually know where your neighbor is.”
The Police Department now has a Facebook page to improve communication, though Gann warned to use the private messaging function as opposed to the public wall space to share information. He also advised people against announcing where they are and who they are with via social networking sites, as countless people now know whose home is currently unoccupied.
“What we’re asking you to do is to be a participant,” said Gann. “We’re dealing with a circle here, and inside the circle is you.”
Shipley said he expects to see positive results from the Police Department’s increased focus on these issues.
“I think we’re going to see good things in this town for the next 45 days,” he said, although adding, “There might be people we love who get in trouble.”