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Dealing with crime up on the mountain

October 18, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

When an area grows, one of the unfortunate side effects is an increase in crime, as residents of the Blue Ridge Mountain area in Jefferson County, W.Va. have discovered. It's time to look at some solutions to the problems by forming a committee as suggested by local state delegates.

Dels. Dale Manuel and John Doyle, D-Jefferson, raised the issue again this week when they set up a meeting Wednesday at the Blue Ridge Mountain Fire Co. so local residents could speak to Joe Martin, the state's secretary for Military Affairs and Public Safety.

Martin didn't make many promises, but did say he would review the manpower issue with top officials of the state police. But Martin said the state has lost troopers because they can get higher pay elsewhere. That leaves Jefferson County with just 12 troopers now, versus the 15 the county once had.

Residents who complained about break-ins, vandalism and illegal use of all-terrain vehicles suggested that a police substation might be needed. But even if the county builds it, Martin wouldn't guarantee it would staffed.

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A study committee is a good idea, because it will get the community acting on the problems instead of just reacting to incidents. Let us suggest a few possibilities.

One that's been used in Washington County municipalities is the resident deputy program. The municipality provided a substation, usually a storefront, then paid the Sheriff's Department a certain amount for so many hours of coverage. The deputy could respond to emergencies outside the municipality, but stayed in the town at other times.

Unincorporated municipalities might have to look at setting special taxing districts for that purpose, but that might be offset if insurance companies would provide a discount for areas with improved police coverage.

How the state handles its trooper shortage is another matter. Those who object to paying them more must remember that when trained troopers leave, they take training that's already been paid for with them.

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