Morgantown City Council members discuss recent drug and vagrancy issues downtown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Members of Morgantown City Council are emphasizing the need to address recent drug and vagrancy issues downtown.

During the first regular meeting of the year for council, the call was made by several members of council to continue working to address recent drug and vagrancy issues that have been taking place downtown. The hope, is simply that recent efforts to deal with rising drug and vagrancy crimes that are being reported in Morgantown stay on course.

“Really the most pressing issue right now is the bad behavior, right,” said Dulaney who spoke about recent efforts to combat the issues. “But I don’t think that homelessness is what has created the sense of urgency at the moment, I think it’s the bad behavior that’s created that sense of urgency that is now spilling into the neighborhoods,” he said.

Dulaney spoke of several proposals that were discussed during a task force that was held in December. Among them were several proposed initiatives which included TIPS training, which was suggested by members of the Morgantown Police Department, where they work with local stores that provide alcohol to help enforce laws currently on the books which state cashiers are not allowed to provide alcohol. Dulaney feels that it would be solid first step towards helping avoiding simpler alcohol offenses.

“Basically just making sure that they understand the laws around selling alcohol,” he explained. “That does contribute to some of our issues downtown, so there’s a task force working on that,” he said.

Other proposals that Dulaney discussed included one by Councilor Zack Cruze where people who are short on cash, can work doing certain services and getting paid on the spot which would be called “Work Today, Get Paid Today.” Another was suggested by Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston, and it included a consideration to city and magistrate courts to work towards more community service based ways to serve punishments for crimes. The reasoning behind this, is the potential to not only avoid greater charges on people, either by being unable to pay fines or avoiding them altogether, but to also help contribute to the community.

“And I think that if we can get people through court, the municipal court being given that opporunity to work with our police officers, to provide that type of service,” said Councilor Dave Harshbarger who also addressed concerns during the meeting. “In particular, it would be great to have them seen on the rail trial picking up trash left over by others, that would you know, be another quick easy win,” he said.

As of now, nothing has been implemented and it’s clear through recent crime statistics reported by Morgantown PD show that a need to address these issues are there. According to 2019 numbers, violent crimes have dropped for an eighth consecutive year but unfortunately the same cannot be said for nuisance and drug crimes which are being reported at a higher rate, in particularly downtown and it’s surrounding neighborhoods. Harshbarger, stated that as a growing concern as citizens have reported activity that was once confined to only the rail trail and Downtown. One thing that’s being empasized to Morgantown residents, concerns are not going on deaf ears.

“I just want our neighbors to know that we are aware of that, and the police are creating more of a presence, and making more of an effort to be in the area where that activity is being notice and reported,” he said.