Fighting Drug Abuse 'Bigger Than Just Wilmington'
In the final part of Patch's five part series, police and town officials weigh in on the importance of stopping local drug issues.
Editor’s Note: The following is Part Four of Patch’s five part series on drug use in Wilmington. You can find the previous four stories on our topic page. Part One included local reaction to the problem, Part Two featured a look at a possible drug coalition forming in town, Part Three gave personal stories of what addiction can do to families and Part Four showed why officials and police believe communication is the key to preventing young drug use.
As has been seen on a local level, the impact drug addiction has is wide ranging.
In addition to physical and emotional tolls that addiction takes on the user and their friends and family, Wilmington has also seen a string of crime related to drug use in recent months.
From a CVS robbery of prescription drugs to a string of home break-ins to support a drug habit, there have been various incidents in addition to drug overdoses. In addition, there are many times when drug addicts steal from their own family, crimes that are often never reported.
“I can say with surety, the majority of all crime and the good majority of violent crime has something to do with some type of substance abuse,” said Police Chief Michael Begonis. “It usually has some type of nexus to it, especially property crimes. These are people who are always trying to manipulate a situation in order to get more.”
Town Manager Michael Caira said he’s met with Begonis to discuss ways the town can step up efforts to stop those who are bringing drugs into the community.
According to the Town Manager, police efforts in surrounding communities can have an impact on drug troubles in Wilmington.
“Cutbacks in some of the urban area police departments in cities have in my mind contributed to the uptick and availability of these drugs,” said Caira. “It’s not always easy to control what’s happening in some of the other cities where a lot of the drug culture is very different. I know the chief is taking specific measures and assigning more officers to this effort, and I think they’re being very aggressive.”
Wilmington High School principal Eric Tracy said the school will continue to work in collaboration with the Police Department to help reach teenagers and teach them the importance of remaining drug free.
Tracy said the Wildcat Project continues to have success each year, and added that the relationship between police and the schools is a good one.
“It’s really our job to keep the lines of communication open. This is a community responsibility,” said Tracy. “The nice thing in Wilmington is you can have that conversation with the Police Department and Fire Department, and come up with some ideas of things we can do. It’s a little harder to reach those kids who have left us, and it seems to be that age group that is struggling. We try to get them early on, and everybody is involved. Our job is to keep trying to educate people on the subject.”
Board of Selectmen chairman Michael Newhouse said the first step to finding a solution to drug issues is simply being aware of the problem.
Newhouse said he believes the Police Department has been diligent in its efforts to stop local drug use, but he also believes the problem is much bigger than just Wilmington.
“Some problems are beyond fixing by one town’s police department alone, and this is one of them,” said Newhouse. “We need to continue to provide the resources to do what we can to battle this. But this is a fight that is a bigger cause and a bigger battle than just the Wilmington Police Department trying to cure the ills of drugs and drug addiction.”