Editor's Note: The following is a guest editorial written by Bellefontaine Police Chief Brandon Standley. It has been placed in the more prominent "local news" section of the Examiner's Website in an effort to give it better exposure.
Drug use and abuse is a serious challenge for law enforcement. Whether officers are investigating someone for selling drugs, or whether they are at your home taking a theft report where the suspect has been identified as a drug user, law enforcement is aware of how drugs can impact a small community like ours.
So, what can we do about it? More specifically, what can you do about it?
Over the last two years, our local Task Force has made significant strides in busting up cells of drug traffickers and seizing drugs and weapons off of our streets. Associates of these dealers also routinely get caught up in being arrested and prosecuted. Interestingly enough, some dealers are not drug users themselves, they only maintain the “business” model of the drug world.
In recent years, heroin has made a climb to the top of our local drug environment. Heroin has impacted small neighborhoods and large neighborhoods. It crosses all socioeconomic thresholds and invades like a wildfire. This type of problem can automatically begin to erode an addict’s life and begin to tear down everything around them.
They may go from being a first-time user to addict in one dosage. At worst, they can die from their first dose.
Heroin can easily be hidden from loved ones or friends. For example, you may have someone you care about begin to show personality changes. At first, you may not have an explanation for this observable change.
Then, over time, you will notice other symptoms that may be directly related to drug use Although there are a variety of explanations for mood swings, and other physical changes that you may observe, we find that drug abuse can be an important part of this.
I hope that you will share our vision of a drug-free community. Law enforcement needs your help in ridding our community of drug traffickers.
Think of it like this, our community suffers from each drug deal that occurs on a daily basis. So, how many drug deals are going on right now as you read this — five, 10, 20?
We have seen some neighborhoods overtaken by drug use and violence associated with drug crimes. In order to fight this problem on each street in our City, we need your help.
For starters, maybe you know that as you read this, there’s a next-door neighbor that won’t read this. Please share this article with them. In fact, spread the word that local law enforcement wants to stop the drug problem before it ever gets started on your street.
There are many drug users that have become addicts because they made poor choices at some point in their life. Drug use does not automatically equal bad people. Drug use can mean a good person made a poor choice and now addiction controls their life.
So, how can you help? You can help by taking a positive approach to drug prevention in your own family. Sadly, you or your family may have already fallen victim to someone abusing drugs. There is still hope, and you can’t ever give up. Over years of talking with drug abusers and some drug traffickers, you find that addiction equals money.
For the dealer, money is everything. They are greedy and selfish. As long as there are addicts, business is booming. If you are the user, money is critically important to your survival. Addicts will lie, cheat and steal to get their next “fix” of drugs. With heroin, for example, many families have seen the devastation when a family member becomes addicted and begins to steal from unsuspecting relatives or close friends. You then become the next victim of drug abuse.
If you look south of the United States, into Mexico, you quickly understand the barbaric tactics that rival drug cartels will use against each other to win the drug business. Did you realize that the heroin that is so widespread in Mexico is the same heroin that is on our city’s streets today?
The heroin is transported over our borders every day in an effort to continue the very lucrative drug business in the United States. It will funnel its way to our great state by a variety of methods, and then eventually into the veins of our community.
Drug trafficking can only be stopped by each adult taking responsibility for their own actions. Sometimes this means that instead of allowing the friend of a friend to spend the night in your apartment to sell drugs, you must tell them ‘No.’
By allowing a drug dealer to take up residency in our city from out of town, you become as guilty as they are in destroying not only your life, but your family’s.
When the time comes when dealers have nowhere to hide in our community, they will eventually not trust anyone around them and they will move out. Can you imagine a dealer looking for a place to hang his head in our community, and not finding a willing person to allow them in? That would be the first day of many great days to come.
Education must be the next step in solving this problem. Educate yourself on the trends in our community. Prevention is the next step. Hide your prescription medications and only allow a select few to know their whereabouts. Pill abuse is one of the leading origins of heroin abuse. Routinely check your medicine cabinet to be sure you are not missing any medications, and if so, report it immediately.
Lastly, but not least, is enforcement. Officers put their lives on the line each day in order to keep you safe. The dangerous world that dealers and addicts live in is not a fun place with rewards and awards included. Their world is made up of deceit, violence, constant health issues and a constant risk of getting caught (either dealing or using). Their world of paranoia becomes their reality, and some don’t get to be “normal” ever again. The further an addict gets into the drug world, the weaker they become.
Today, I ask you stand with local law enforcement and join our efforts to stop this cycle of abuse.
Stand up and help us defend our community against the poison that some weak-minded individuals have brought here.
Stand up for those that are vulnerable or weak, and can’t say ‘No.’
Stand up for those who have fought addiction and won.
Stand up for the brave men and women of law enforcement who fight this epidemic every day.
Lastly, stand up for yourself and say that you won’t become the next addict. We need you to be a part of this fight. We will win because we are right, and we are stronger than the dealers who have chosen the weak to prey on. Dealers are OUR poison and we must stop them TODAY.
Brandon Standley is chief of the Bellefontaine Police Department. Contact his office at 599-1010 or report crime at 592-TIPS.