- Wayne Baker Staff Writer
Neighbors from the Parkamo Avenue area and concerned residents from across the city attended a meeting with the Hamilton Police Department Tuesday evening at the Pater Avenue Church in order to formulate a plan to rid their streets of drug activity.
Pastor Dennis Matheny, 69, felt the drug activity in his Hamilton Parkamo Avenue neighborhood had grown so out out control that he decided to combat the problem on his street last week, which he told the Journal-News has become known in the city as “Heroin Alley,” by taking a “No Drugs Today” message to the drug dealers and addicts.
He sat a table in front of his home with the message on a placard, as he was joined by hundreds of neighbors and others, including Police Chief Craig Bucheit. The activism led to Tuesday’s meeting at the church, which was punctuated with a “sick and tired” attitude regarding drugs in the county.
“I was just sick and tired of seeing these people deal and use drugs in our neighborhood and finding needles on my property,” Matheny explained. “So I am asking tonight Chief Bucheit, ‘how far can we go to end this as law abiding citizens?’”
Bucheit said that homeowners have a right to legally protect themselves, but cautioned against a vigilante approach, instead he asked that citizens use a neighborhood watch approach that he said will get underway immediately in the Parkamo neighborhood.
“This drug problem is a public health crisis and a social issue,” he said. “The police can’t solve it alone and neither can the public, but working together is the most effective tool we have to fight crime.”
Dr. Scott Rasmus, executive director of the Butler County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery Services Board, said the addiction problem is dire countywide.
“In 2015 there were 189 overdoses in Butler County and in 2016 192. This year we are slated at 270,” Rasmus said. “About 85 percent of them are opiate related overdoses.”
Residents shared stories of seeing addicts attempting to steal from their homes, backyard sheds and cars, while also seeing people walk the streets nearly falling down under the influence of drugs.
Bucheit said that an officer will become a liaison in the Parkamo neighborhood and will be responding to information provided by residents and he advised the crowd to call 911 if there is an issue with public intoxication.
Several landlords expressed concern about how to evict drug dealers or addicts from property they own.
“We do have tools with ordinances that will help with evictions, but we need landlords also to be more mindful now when screening,” Bucheit said. “But look, we aren’t just going to make the problem go away after tonight. But we can work together to make a difference.”