UPDATE: 10 New Officers A Sign of Growing Crime-Fighting Efforts

UPDATE 7/25/14 @ 6:42 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Huntington Mayor Steve Williams is trying to send a message to criminals: he has plans to take back the community.

So far this year, he said there have already been 260 drug-related offenses. Compared to 2012, there were about 219 total.

He also said there are one to two overdoses per day in Huntington and he's fed up.

Now, the city is adding 10 new officers to the force, bringing the force to its highest number in years.

Williams said the city has become inundated with hotspots for drug-crimes and criminals.

He said it started in areas like the West End and Fairfield and spread around the city.

He also said the "drug of choice" has evolved from prescription pills to heroin, and now crack cocaine is making a return.

That's no surprise to neighbors who've noticed everything from overdoses and gunshots to burglaries.

Now, they're holding out hope 10 new officers means Huntington's crime wave will end soon.

"You're afraid to take your children outside," neighbor Don Ross said.

Ross is tired of crime on his street.

"We've seen a shooting two houses down. There's been a shooting on the other end of the block and countless drug deals and such on the street," he said.

The Highlawn neighborhood has been the scene of several shootings and drug busts in the past several months.

On the other side of town, Jarek Montgomery and his family are dealing with the same issues in the West End.

"I think it's gotten worse," he said.

He said shootings and drug busts have caught neighbors' eyes over and over again.

"A while ago that street over there was bad, a lot of drug busts over there in the apartments over there," Montgomery said.

Both hope Huntington Police will put a dent in the crime.

Williams is backing 10 new officers at a half-million dollar price tag.

"If these folks think that it's worth it to stay here, then fine, they'll take on the risk and they'll suffer the consequences," Williams said.

He said since the police force dropped to 75 officers in 2002, crime spiked and a market for drugs opened up to criminals from Detroit and other cities.

"The drug infestation has started to spread from one area of town to the entire town," he said.

Williams said the problem is not only growing, but becoming more critical with one to two overdoses each day.

"There is a distribution network that it just goes out like that," Williams said.

People who see the issues every day have high hopes things will change.

"There could be a drive-by in the area, my daughter's outside, something could happen," Ross said.

Neighbors in the Fairfield community said they've taken license plates down and called police with tips to help push criminals out.

They also said the problem will not be fixed if people who depend on drugs don't get help, as well.

Williams said the effort to get rid of criminals is far-reaching.

He said they're working with federal agencies and state agencies, and he hopes to work with neighboring states, too.



ORIGINAL STORY 7/24/14 @ 10:30 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Huntington city council is reallocating funding in order to expand the ranks of the police department.

The city is reallocating $500,000 budgeted for insurance and paving expenses and moving it into the police department's budget instead. The money will help hire 10 new police officers and one civilian position.

Huntington's Mayor & Interim Police Chief say these funds will help increase the city's efforts to eradicate drug activity.

City leaders say once the new officers are brought on board, the City will have 121 officers in the police force. It will take a few months to get the new officers hired and trained.


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