Thursday night almost 200 people turned out for a community policing meeting on the island. The focus was on drug use. I don’t think our community is unique in this being an issue, but our isolation and size allows a focus that may not be as clear in a larger area.
Drug addiction is a complicated issue. Causes and recovery don’t fall under the jurisdiction of a policing forum. That’s a more complicated, but just as important, element. Policing can address possession and more critically trafficking. Policing also addresses the traditional byproducts of drug issues: breaking and enter, theft, and other crimes to fund the habit. We have the benefit of a productive economy so there hasn’t been a spike in these events. There has been an increase in other byproducts (like abandoned needles) that generates a plethora of other concerns.
The focus of the meeting was on what can the community do, and what are the barriers to doing it? There were presentations on different programs available to law enforcement agencies that would protect anonymity (that’s still a complicated issue in a small community no matter how effective the program). There were honest comments about not knowing what to do or how to do it. The fear of reprisal. Emotional issues when it’s a member of your family. Why some programs were not used more. Being pro-active vs. reactive. The need for the community to make a decision about what they will and won’t accept. There was frustration that policing wasn’t the answer. The discussion was real and honest. I learned things. I think others did as well.
This was the first of (hopefully) many steps the community can take to try and address the issue. It won’t be easy or straightforward, but grumbling without action won’t create change. Only time will tell if a change can be made, but with that many people concerned enough to show it by their presence at a three hour meeting, I have to believe that it can.