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New chief encouraged by direction of Charles Town Police

May 12, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - After five months of leading the Charles Town Police Department, Police Chief Barry Subelsky said he is encouraged by the professionalism of his force and a good working relationship between the department and Charles Town City Council and other local police departments.

Subelsky said he would like to see certain things happen, including a closer working relationship between the department and the public, but said he sees no major crime issues facing the town.

"I haven't found any show-stopping problems," Subelsky said. "There's do-betters around here. There's nothing where I've gone to the mayor and said, 'We have to fix this now.'"

Subelsky replaced former Police Chief Mike Aldridge, who retired last year after overseeing the department for eight years.

Subelsky was selected for the job from a pool of six applicants and was sworn in Jan. 3.

Subelsky said he has been greeted warmly by people in the community, and he has appreciated the genuine nature of their comments.

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Subelsky said he likes the working relationship the department has with city council, as well as local law enforcement leaders, particularly Jefferson County Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober.

Subelsky said Boober is knowledgeable about police work and the community given his tenure as sheriff, and previously as the police chief in Ranson, W.Va. Subelsky said he has been working with Boober on law enforcement issues.

"The sheriff has been a willing partner, and he's given me some pretty good advice," Subelsky said Wednesday in an interview.

As for crime, Subelsky said one of the department's biggest challenges is controlling drug trafficking. In the mid-1990s, the city dealt with a string of drug problems, including a drug-infested area known as "The Strip" along South West Street, and Subelsky credits Aldridge with getting the town's drug problems under control and modernizing the department.

"I'm going to try and keep going with it," Subelsky said.

Currently, Subelsky said there is the occasional "hand to hand" in town, where someone quickly will give someone money in exchange for drugs. Subelsky said his goal is to determine who is supplying those drugs to interrupt the flow of narcotics.

Subelsky said he and officials with other police departments also have been concerned about signs of gang activity in the area, and have seen signs of "tagging," where the groups mark areas with spray paint.

MS-13 is one of the most violent street gangs in the country, and signs of the gang have been showing up in the area, police have said.

To deal with crime, Subelsky said he would like to see the public get more involved in working with police to combat the problems.

Subelsky said people want the police to fix a crime problem, but they do not want to get involved. That might not hinder solving some problems, but in other cases it might, such as when officers are obtaining warrants, Subelsky said.

Subelsky said he understands that people sometimes are reluctant to get involved because they fear retaliation, but Subelsky said he thinks it is not as bad as some people believe.

"I'm not like a street sweeper," Subelsky said, explaining that he simply can't sweep problems away on his own. "We have to work together on it."

Subelsky is getting high marks from city officials including Mayor Peggy Smith and City Councilman Matt Ward. Ward said he likes Subelsky's effort to make his presence known in the community, which Ward said is the best way to keep a small town safe.

Ward said he recently had concerns about some traffic issues near his house, and Subelsky came out several times to observe the situation and offer feedback.

"I think he's just been great all around so far," Ward said.

Looking down the road, Subelsky said he can see a need for more officers and space if the town continues to grow.

"I don't see that as something we will have to worry about in the next couple of years," Subelsky said.

The department has 12 officers, but is authorized to have 16.

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