BUCKHANNON — The Buckhannon Police Department is planning a series of community meetings in the coming months as a way to connect with the community on issues from drug awareness to general crime and law concerns.
The first such meeting was held Thursday night and focused on drug awareness.
BPD chief Matt Gregory said, “Tonight was an effort to bring the community together, first and foremost to put a presentation on to educate the community about drug awareness and to create a dialogue about drug issues specifically in the community and how we can tackle those issues — not only through enforcement, but also through education, treatment, prevention and awareness.”
“After the meeting last month with city council where we talked about different ideas to engage the community, [Cpl. Nick Caynor] actually came to me and had an idea for hosting a variety of community meetings as an effort to reach out to the community and create a dialogue and foster more community involvement with the police department. We began to talk about a variety of topics we could have for these meetings and we came to the decision to have drug awareness be the topic for the first meeting.
“Nick had put on a meth lab awareness class a couple years ago that was very well attended and well received,” Gregory said. “We decided that was a good time to revisit not just meth labs but to talk about drugs in general because of the issues not just in our community but all around us.”
The City of Buckhannon has began discussing the drug epidemic once again and Mayor David McCauley reached out to West Virginia University president Dr. Gordon Gee for help.
Gee has connected McCauley with WVU vice president for health sciences, Dr. Clay Marsh who is working with partners around the state to bring a focus and community-based effort to drug addiction.
Matt Kerner, executive director of Opportunity House, Inc. also spoke about coalition building and the stigma of addiction at the forum.
Caynor focused his talk about drugs from bathsalts and potpourri to other substances and the dangers in their various forms.
“This was the wrong group,” Caynor said. “There’s really no one in this room that truly needs the information. It is going to be up to these people to help facilitate so that information gets out to the people who need it. This is definitely a push for more community involvement.”
He said he hopes to continue the meetings more often — at least quarterly if not more frequently than that — and has ideas for future sessions. Thursday’s session ran past two hours and did not leave time for the meth awareness talk.
Other ideas include general law and crime awareness to address some of the common issues that come up.
One topic raised at Thursday’s forum by residents was more neighborhood watches but Caynor said that a neighborhood watch requires buy-in and support from many people in the neighborhood.
“We are willing to help facilitate neighborhood watches but people have to remember that neighborhood watch or private security if you are a business or a housing project, it’s a systematic approach,” he said. “If you are going to facilitate a neighborhood watch, you have to approach it where you find someone willing to do it. Just hanging a sign that says ‘you are being watched’ isn’t going to do anything. You have to take further steps than just hanging a sign, you have to take involvement in it to be productive.”
If there are groups interested in forming a neighborhood watch, contact the BPD at 304-472-5723.