FLINTON — Residents of the Glendale Area School District received information to help them combat drug activity in the community during a town hall meeting, “Take Back Our Town” Thursday evening at the school.
About 100 people attended the meeting that was sponsored by the Glendale Valley Spirit and Truth Church, Irvona. Speakers were Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr., State Police Community Services Officer for Troop C Trooper Bruce Morris and Clearfield County District Judge Jim Glass.
The welcome was given by District Superintendent Edward DiSabato, who said the school district “is pleased to host this event” and he was “thrilled with the turnout.”
“Whether it is school employees or community residents, we are all here for the same reason. We all care about the community and want a safe environmental for our children and our residents. We want to know what we can do to make things better. Our focus is not to point fingers or place blame but to discuss this issue which is prevalent in the community,” he said.
Shaw told the group that drug abuse and illegal sales are problems experienced by communities across the county and state. “There is no easy solution,” he explained, adding, “It’s in every community. We are not unlike everywhere else in that we want to know what we can do to combat this problem.”
The most common drugs used locally are marijuana, heroin, opioids and methadone. He said in years past, alcohol was an issue for teenagers — but drugs have mostly replaced it.
“It used to be a charge of driving under the influence meant alcohol, but now it’s drugs,” Shaw said.
He said often times drug abuse starts with a prescription for pain management.
Shaw said if residents are aware of illegal drug sales and other activity, they can make complaints to Crime Stoppers either using the district attorney’s website, www.clearfieldda.org, or by calling the organization’s tip line at 1-800-376-4700.
He encouraged those attending the meeting that if they are making a complaint, to continue until they see action.
“Keep calling. Keep sending emails. Be diligent in your reporting. I mean that. It is more likely to be addressed. It takes time to develop a case,” he explained.
“Drugs, thefts, whatever the complaint is, they all take time. Whenever we go after them, we have to do it appropriately. Drugs and drug dealers are in every neighborhood in every community, but few places have their own police services and rely on the state police. It is difficult for the police to balance how to use their limited resources on a problem that is often overwhelming,” Shaw said.
He said often times when an offender is charged and convicted, residents may believe their sentence is too light. Shaw said the judge must use sentencing requirements and may not supersede those.
“You need considerable evidence to put someone in prison for years,” Shaw said.
Residents often do not agree when the offender receives a sentence that requires therapy, counseling and periodic drug testing, but Shaw said if an offender can be rehabilitated, it is often less expensive in the long run for the county that must pay the costs associated with the sentence.
A resident told Shaw that he believes Coalport is currently experiencing a “big problem with young kids using methadone” and asked, “How many kids have to be hurt in the meantime?” while offenders get around their drug test requirements. “It’s just so hard to see that kids are dying and there is nothing we can do to help them,” the audience member said.
An elementary teacher asked Shaw what could be done to discourage young students from using drugs.
“Everything we have talked about so far is reactive. Is there something that can be done proactive manner?”
Shaw said there are curriculums that are research-based. He also encouraged families to be involved with their children and work to build a strong family unit because that will often help kids not to start using drugs.
He also encouraged the crowd not to become discouraged by what they are reading about local drug activity.
“There are many more success stories than bad apples,” Shaw said. “Many recovering addicts are doing well.”
Morris suggested residents who are reporting criminal activity make their accounts as specific as possible, noting details that can be helpful to investigating officers.
“If it catches your attention, pay attention and report it. More information and better descriptions are always helpful,” Morris explained.
He said the state police have a large coverage area and about 15 officers. “We have to rely on residents to be our eyes and ears,” he noted.
“Call the police with the information. It gets our officers into the game. We’d much rather go through the process and have it turn out not to be anything. If it’s not what you think it is, no harm done,” he explained.
He too reminded those attending not to become discouraged if offenders are picked up immediately.
“You feel frustration with the time it takes. We do too. It is often two, three or four years before someone goes to trial. The system is designed to take time. It has checks and balances.”
He also encouraged parents to be involved in their children’s lives.
“Ask questions. You have to stay on top of it. Meet their friends, ask them questions. The alternative is a lot worse,” Morris said.
Glass thanked the audience for attending and announced an educational training to be held March 23 at Glendale Valley Spirit and Truth Church. Dr. David Ervine will present a workshop on chemical dependency and addiction from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the church located on state Route 53. The session is free, although a free will offering will be taken. A continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.
Registrations are due to the church by March 2 and may be made by contacting the church in writing and mailing it to P.O. Box. 156, Irvona, PA 16656.