Free cars now part of drug offensive in Jefferson

November 11, 1996


Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Plenty has been said in the debate on how to defeat drug trafficking in Jefferson County, but nothing quite like Paul Lowe's idea.

Lowe, owner of an auction house in Middleway, said he is willing to give away free cars just to get people involved in battling drug use in the county. Lowe is one of about a dozen county residents who have been meeting recently to come up with a coordinated plan to reduce drug trafficking in the county.

Beginning after Christmas, the group will be holding a meeting every other month to devise its strategy, and Lowe said he hopes to have a drawing for a car at every meeting to increase community interest in the effort.


Lowe's business, Tri-State Auctions, is a large auction business along W.Va. 51 that handles everthing from car sales to estate auctions.

"It certainly won't be a new car or anything, but it will be a gesture," said Lowe.

"It's a major issue in the county," Lowe said of the drug problem. "I just really got tired of hearing about it."

The peddling of drugs, primarily crack cocaine, has been a problem in the county for some time. There have been several large-scale busts over the years, and in recent months, police have confiscated thousands of dollars worth of crack. Since 1993, there have been two drug-related slayings in Charles Town.

Sheriff William Senseney, who has been involved with Lowe and the other people in the group, said the effort will be different from other anti-drug initiatives that have been launched in the community. FOCUS, for example, a federally funded program that was started in Charles Town in 1990, has worked to gather facts and statistics about the problem, Senseney said.

Free Our Citizens of Unhealthy Substances has also studied issues like the public's perception of police service and how police agencies use their funding.

"Now we have to actually do something about it," said Senseney.

Although Seneney said the effort is still in the planning stages, it will involve bringing businesses, schools, churches, civic groups and lawmakers together to battle drug trafficking.

Senseney and Lowe's group, who have yet to come up with a name for the project, have listed a number of organizations and businesses that already work in the substance abuse field or who are affected by drug trafficking, such as mental health care providers, neighborhood watch groups, youth centers and public schools.

After the group determines how those agenices and services are involved in treating drug use and battling drug trafficking, the resources will be coordinated to more efficiently attack the problem, Senseney said.

Jefferson County Superintendent of Schools Jud Romine, who attended the group's last meeting, said what impressed him about the effort was the number of police agenices that are involved. During a meeting of the group last week, Senseney's department, the West Virginia State Police and all the municipal police departments sent a representative, Romine said.

Romine said he is not sure what role public schools will play, but they are certainly not strangers to the problem, he said.

"We're constantly working with those type issues, prevention more than anything else," Romine said.

Senseney said the effort started when Lowe called Charles Town Police Capt. Louis Brunswick and asked Brunswick what he could do as a businessman to help battle drug use in the county. Lowe initially considered donating money from his car sales to help wage a war against drugs, Senseney said.

Lowe said he would like to see the effort expanded into the other Eastern Panhandle counties so everyone can help drive drugs out of the area.

"There's quite a bit on the plate here, but I think it's doable," Senseney said.

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