by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Public Safety, Addiction Issues Dominate Council Public Input
Sandra Clements File Photo

While Huntington City Council approved acceptance of grants involving the city's continuing fight against drug addiction, several public speakers called attention to their perilous descriptions of recent encounters involving homeless addicts and crime.

Marie Redd, a former State Senator and a business operator in the 500 block of Fifth Avenue, told about crime and drug related spillover in the block.

Her most recent experiences follow a fire in the 500 block of Fifth Street that destroyed two structures, which have since been demolished. Some homeless squatters have, she said, moved in to a frame dwelling on Fifth Avenue. "Chronic foot traffic"  has increased in the alley, she said.

Ms. Redd told that coming to work she has seen a dead body (near the property), syringes, and strangers sitting on business property. They get angry when asked to leave, she told council members.

In addition to asking for increased police presence, she joined former councilwoman Sandra Clements regarding concern about a September 30 shooting incident at 14th Street and Charleston Avenue near the A.D. Lewis youth football playing field .

"Every child needs to feel safe. There should have been security there, " Redd said.

Ms. Clements told council , "I don't think parents should have to worry about a child playing football (and other sports). We need to reassure the public that the city and police are on top of it."

Although there have been no security issues since the league's founding in 1973, one league president stressed he would like to see police "every day."

Redd added, "Let's protect all the kids and residents [and] make them feel safe going out."

Earlier at the meeting, Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli indicated off duty police security would be added at A.D. Lewis.

Council Tuesday evening, Oct. 10, did take action on addiction and safety issues by approving both a Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services grant. The grants allow greater direct intervention in  OD incidents, including follow up by a mental health counselor and paying overtime for officers to do so.

Police Chief Ciccarelli told council that the direct contact follow up has increased addict participation in treatment services initially from 10% to 27%.

He said the HPD website would be upgraded shortly to "increase efficiency."  Residents will be able to see status updates on filed cases, leave special patrol requests, and leave anonymous tips.

A couple also complained about crime and speeding in the 3000 block of Washington Blvd.