Drug use in Haines is provoking tough interactions and conversations with both residents and police. The police chief posted a letter on Facebook last week about what people can do to safely intervene in uncomfortable situations.
Police Chief Heath Scott issued a written statement addressing two drug-related incidents in Haines.
Scott thanked a Haines man, who he identified only as Brian*, for stopping drug activity in his neighborhood. After seeing two people in a car smoking what he thought was meth, Brian confronted them.
“He tried to persuade them to stop. And I think the persuasion was yelling and some firm suggestions,” Scott said.”I think what he displayed is a sense of ownership for the welfare of his community.”
Police were not called in response to the argument. When the story reached him by word-of-mouth, he wanted to “memorialize” the incident, Scott said.
“I want to support people that take on that sense of ownership, say that it’s welcomed, and I want to caution you how to do it correctly.”
Scott wrote that community safety is not a passive spectator sport. He clarified in an interview that holding people accountable for drug use is important — but citizens shouldn’t break laws, turn to violence, or put themselves at risk.
“99% of the time, the right thing to do is to call us,” he said.
Brian’s wife*, who was with him at the time of the confrontation, knows that can be especially challenging in a small town.
“Haines is so small that you know everybody,” she said.”I mean, I went to high school with this person. I graduated, I was great friends with him growing up. I’ve known his family since they moved here, I know his child. It’s hard especially when you know someone, and you know they see your face.”
If it had happened on Main Street she doesn’t think her husband would have stopped, she says. But it was in their neighborhood. They have two young sons, and a baby on the way.
“I think everyone’s just kind of scared to say anything. I was scared after [the incident] happened,” she said. “When we came home, I didn’t want to go to sleep. I was terrified.”
In a separate incident forty-eight hours later, Chief Scott said emergency responders successfully resuscitated someone who had overdosed in the middle of the night.
“All of our volunteer fire department members and EMS members respond in personal vehicles here, in icy conditions. For someone that is recklessly abusing an opioid or a stimulant, it is not without risk to us.”
He’s speaking out about both of the incidents because he wants people to take personally the range of effects that drugs have in the community.
“This has got to be a team effort. This is not a crime problem. We don’t solve this by throwing people in jails. We just don’t. We’re still trying to find our way.”
There’s no immediate plan for a formal community meeting about drugs use, but Scott said he wants to keep the conversation open.
If residents see dangerous or uncomfortable situations involving drugs, they can always call the police department on the non-emergency line and 911, or send anonymous tips through the Nixle app.
*We’re limiting identification to what was in the police chief’s statement, in order to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.