MOUNT VERNON — The lineups of speakers and topics are set for the “Town Hall: Drugs and Our Community” series. A panel of experts will address the topic for each evening, plus there will be a question-and-answer session at the end of each session.
The series of four meetings will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Twin Oak Elementary School, 8888 Martinsburg Road, Mount Vernon. Enter at the Lower Level Commons Area on the northeast side of the building.
The first session is set for Tuesday. Knox County residents should have their eyes opened when Detective Lt. Craig Feeney of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Det. J.T. DeChant of the Mount Vernon Police Department talk about the local drug culture and its effect on the community.
They deal with drug issues almost daily and Feeney said a Bureau of Criminal Identification agent he talked to, who normally works the Fairfield County area, said he has been hearing about Mount Vernon as a “source” for drug trafficking. Police Capt. Scott McKnight said that the field is crowded for drug dealers in Columbus, so they move out to smaller, more rural communities where they think they may not be noticed for a while. Mount Vernon also provides easy access to Mansfield, Newark, Columbus and Coshocton, which makes it a convenient location.
Feeney said that in the last 10 years he has also seen the violence associated with drug crime become “amped up,” so it’s worse than it used to be.
Part of Tuesday’s program will be a demonstration by the Danville Police Department K-9 unit on the value of dogs in finding illegal drugs.
The “hot drugs” of the day seem to be crystal meth, black tar heroin and crack cocaine. DeChant and Feeney will show examples of each and discuss how they affect people.
They will also discuss what tools law enforcement needs to combat the drug culture and what the public can do to help police.
A prescription drug collection point will be provided each evening.
In addition to Tuesday’s town hall, the following meetings are scheduled:
•Thursday, May 11. Crime Prevention and Crime trends (fraud, scams and theft), Neighborhood Watch Programs and Community Safety. The evening will feature Lt. Kyle Johnson of the Fredericktown Police Department (National Night Out); Ptl. Ronny Flynn, Fredericktown Police Department; Knox County Sheriff David Shaffer; Chief Roger Monroe and Capt. Scott McKnight, Mount Vernon Police Department; and Laura Webster, operations director, Knox County 911.
Bike patrols, law enforcement equipment and vehicles will be on display from 5:45 to 6:30 p.m.
•Thursday, May 18. “The Court Perspective and Judicial Process.” A local judicial perspective as it relates to crime, punishment and addiction recovery. The panel will feature Municipal Court Judge John Thatcher, Common Pleas Judge Richard Wetzel, Probate/juvenile Judge Jennifer Springer, County Prosecutor Chip McConville, City Law Director Rob Broeren, Adult Probation Dept./Adult Court Services.
•Tuesday, May 23. “Community Recovery and Addiction Resources.” What recovery services and resources are currently available to citizens of Knox County. Panelists will include Ashley Didinger, KSAAT; Jeff Williams, executive director of the Freedom Center; Mount Vernon Fire Chief Chad Christopher; Lane Belangia, CEO Knox Community Health Center, Mental Health and Addiction Services; Heather Day, Director of Public Health Outreach, Project Dawn services and Narcan; Phyllis Sims CFNP, Walk-in Clinic, Vivitrol; Michelle Belt, New Visions, KCH.
The people who served on the committee to arrange the town hall meetings on the drug issue were:
Mayor Richard Mavis; Ashley Didinger; Council President Bruce Hawkins; Fire Chief Chad Christopher; Judge Richard Wetzel; Dave Priest; Sheriff Dave Shaffer and Capt. Jay Sheffer; Jeff Williams; Safety-Service Director Joel Daniels; Council Member John Francis; Judge John Thatcher; County Prosecutor Chip McConville; Health Commissioner Julie Miller; Law Director Rob Broeren; Police Chief Roger Monroe; Capt. Scott McKnight; County Commissioners Roger Reed, Teresa Bemiller and Thom Collier; Rick Lanuzza, Fredericktown EMS chief; Mount Vernon city schools superintendent Bill Seder and Juvenile Court Judge Jennifer Springer.