Town gets first police officers in three years
SUTTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A community has police officers patrolling its streets for the first time in more than three years. The town of Sutton is working to rebuild its police force to control drug issues town leaders said have gotten out of hand without any cops on duty.
Chief Shane Boggs was recently hired and started by working on replacing outdated equipment, forms and more. The town has a major heroin problem, Boggs said, and the Police Department has focused on getting grants to rebuild its police presence and clean up the streets. Those grants have allowed them to get new cars, uniforms and laptops.
“We are seeing a lot of (heroin),” Boggs said. “We don’t have the drug houses, we have an addiction issue. We are trying to start at a lower level and try to address it through community action, rehabilitation to avoid locking up all of the community.”
Boggs is the former Richwood Police Chief who now works full-time as a pastor. He is volunteering his time to lead the department and has hired his brother to be the department’s only other officer to work alongside sheriff’s deputies who are contracted to patrol the town. Boggs is not yet a certified police officer, but plans to attend the State Police Academy in August.
They have mainly focused on traffic stops so far, and have even arrested one person who they found with a felony warrant out of Kanawha County, Boggs said.
“It’s just to let people know that there is a police presence once again,” Boggs said. “The one thing we are not doing is writing many citations. We don’t want the police department to become a tax on the community. We want them to be a benefit to this community, so our approach is make a lot of stops, write very few tickets, and hopefully in between we will find somebody who has a felony warrant or is driving with narcotics.”
Residents have already seen a difference on the streets. Laurel Petolicchio is the Town Recorder and owns a small business that her family used to guard with a shotgun at night due to the amount of drug activity on the streets. She said they are no longer worried about people trying to break into their windows.
“Not being sure if you are going to be attacked or something is going to be a big problem,” Petolicchio said. “That is no longer there, and that is one of the reasons this council wanted law enforcement was to make sure that our senior citizens were safe and our community was able to grow.”
Petolicchio said the town was also limited in the businesses it was able to attract, because one of the first questions potential owners would ask is if the town had police officers. Leaders are now hoping a safer town leads to more economic growth and development.
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