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Huntington Council Votes to Counter Rising Drug Crime by Hiring Ten New Police Officers at Special Session
Williams told the council that while heroin incidents spiked in 2013, crack has made a resounding comeback. Drug offense projections for 2014 are expected to be about 500. Accompanying drug incidents are increases in violent crimes, as the drug use and trafficking impacts other criminal activity.
The new hires will bring the department's staffing level to 121 sworn officers. The officers will not be hired until later this fiscal year due to the hiring process and scheduling of training academies.
However, Williams said the effect of the reallocation will be seen long before the 10 new officers are hired.
"This allows the Police Department to implement a new enforcement strategy that begins immediately," he said.
Funding for the hiring, comes from a $350,000 insurance cost savings and council will dip into the Spring Paving fund for $150,000. "We want to do something sooner not later," Bates told HNN. The city has spent more than $1 million in paving during the past two months and has approximately $250,000 left in the paving line for the spring.
Williams told council that he receives communications daily from angry citizens on the crime. Borrowing a line from the film "Network," the Mayor stressed, "It's going to take every person in every neighborhood of this city to get angry enough to say we're not putting up with this anymore, and standing arm in arm in their neighborhoods to take their neighborhoods back." He added, "If you are a drug dealer get the hell out (of Huntington). We are coming to get you."
Accompanying Mayor Williams was Police Chief Jim Johnson, HPD Patrol Commander Frank Dial, and County Prosecutor Sean Hammers.
Council members were reminded that the "strategy" itself remained the subject of executive session.
(Portions of this story come from a City of Huntington press release.)