'Urgent Call To Action' Over Drug Task Force

'Urgent Call To Action' Over Drug Task Force

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Watertown lawmakers are coming under fire for looking at cutting money earmarked for fighting the region's drug problem.

On Thursday, the Alliance for Better Communities sent out an email. The subject: "Urgent Call To Action."

The group takes issue with Wednesday's budget talks, when city council debated a plan to spend more than $60,000 to add a full-time detective to the Metro-Jeff Drug Task Force.

While Mayor Joe Butler wants to keep the money and position in the budget, council members Lisa Ruggiero, Ryan Henry-Wilkinson, Cody Horbacz, and Mark Walczyk oppose it. No final action was taken.

The alliance, which works to reduce underage drinking and substance abuse, is calling on its members to call or write to council members to get them to keep the money in the budget.

It provides the following sample letter:

"Dear Mayor Butler and Watertown City Council Members:

I am writing to express complete support for adding a Watertown Police Department Detective to the Metro-Jefferson Drug Task Force.  Drugs continue to be the prime driver of criminal activity in the City of Watertown, and drug overdose deaths continue to be at levels that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.  From 2015-2017, there were 58 drug overdose deaths in Jefferson County, and 59% of these deaths were in the City of Watertown.

The most recent data generated by the Alliance for Better Communities demonstrate that emergency department and hospital inpatient admissions due to overdose are also largely city-driven, with 55% of ED visits and hospital admissions from residents in the 13601 zip-code.

The City of Watertown is Ground Zero for drug activity in Jefferson County.  As a result of the increased drug activity, violent crime has risen dramatically in the City of Watertown.  Robberies, assault and battery, and murders have increased in our city due to drugs.    Drug and weapon seizures have increased significantly as well.  Approximately 90% of the Metro-Jefferson Drug Task Force activity is concentrated in the City of Watertown.

More resources are needed to stop the flow of drugs on our streets.  The Metro-Jefferson Drug Task Force can do so much more if they have the manpower to do it.  Please support cleaning up our streets, and send a message to drug dealers that Watertown is not a place where a dealer will want to do business!  Please restore funding to hire a Watertown Police Department Detective."

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