Laurel police chief seeks guidance in addiction crisis

By Tony E. Windsor

  • Police seized cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin and drug packaging materials in a Laurel investigation that resulted in seven arrests (May 11).

  • Police seized about two ounces of cocaine, 31 Oxycodone pills, 9 Alprazolam pills, 16 bags of heroin, two suboxone film strips, about .08 grams of amphetamine, two digital scales and drug storage paraphernalia in Laurel raid (July 24).

  • Seaford police say a 21-year-old Laurel man is behind bars following a drug bust that resulted in the seizure of nearly 250 bags of heroin (May 1).

  • Delaware State Police said they arrested a Laurel man after he led police on a chase through Blades, and was found to be in possession of 41 bags of heroin (Aug. 26).

Laurel, like communities throughout Delaware, has remained in the media spotlight regarding incidents of illicit drug activities, including those involving opiates like heroin and fentanyl, which have reached crisis levels. This opioid crisis has left community leaders and law enforcement agencies struggling to find ways to address the devastation being left in its wake.

In an effort to take a proactive stance on the opiate crisis in the Laurel community, Police Chief Dan Wright is enlisting spiritual support. On Monday night, Aug. 27, Wright invited members of local churches and faith-based groups to meet and discuss ideas about addressing the impact of drug addiction on the community.

Wright first met with the group in July and it was decided to meet regularly to communicate educational information about drug problems including heroin and fentanyl addiction, use and sale in the Laurel area. The Police Chief said in addition to working together to find ways to proactively meet the challenges of drug addiction, this would also be an opportunity for the police department to share information that will help it be more transparent with the public.

"As the chief of police, I cannot think of a better way to bring the community together for the betterment of the Town of Laurel and the surrounding areas, than by bringing all of the houses of worship together to unite for a common cause," he said. "The more we communicate the better we will be."

Wright said the communication also helps to bridge gaps that may exist between the police department and the community as it pertains to drug investigations.

"As police we have to do the right thing when it comes to how we handle drug investigations and arrests. We want transparency in the police department," he said. "We want to be able to explain how and why we do things the way we do. It is important that the community is able to relate to the police because if someone knows something, we want them to say something."

Wright said he believes by addressing the concerns there is opportunity to slow down or stop rumors and false information spreading throughout the local area. "By educating the community we can also help police obtain investigative leads to help solve crime or bring assistance to troubled areas or areas of concern by our citizens," he said. "We want to help educate the public as to how our officers do their job. It is important that people understand what we as law enforcement can do and cannot do in the boundaries of the Constitution and laws of Delaware. We desire to be as transparent as possible when addressing issues of concern brought to the police department."

Wright said he believes the faith-based community is extremely important in terms of offering opportunities to reach out to people who otherwise may not trust when it comes to sharing about problems they are having that may have led to drug use.

"In church we often sense when someone is having a bad day or seems to not be themselves. That does not necessarily mean that they are involved in drugs, but if they are facing difficulties, we can be someone that they can talk to. In some cases, it may very well be a situation where someone is dealing with addiction and if we can reach one person, that is a victory," he said.

Also in attendance at the Town Hall meeting was Laurel Town Manager Jamie Smith who lauded the group for their willingness to be involved in addressing the opiate crisis. "This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart," she said. "I know someone who is dealing with this and has unfortunately experienced an overdose and is currently in rehab. I believe if the community comes together, especially our churches, it will make an impact and we can make our community better for everyone."

The Ministry Council is considering opportunities to take its message of a proactive stance regarding addiction prevention to individual churches and Wright feels it's best to do these presentations as a group. "We are a diverse group made up of a variety of churches and cultural backgrounds, and I think this is a way to ensure that wherever we go there is a mission of inclusiveness. We want everyone to feel comfortable and able to join in this spiritual mission and be a part of this effort," he said.

Wright also wanted the Ministry Council strategy meetings to be used as an opportunity to promote existing programs that are helping to address addiction. Members of the Laurel Nazarene Church program, "Celebrate Recovery (CR)" shared information about the recovery program that meets each Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the church, located on Walnut Street (across the street from the Game Zone building).

The spokeswoman is identified as "Sam," due to the program's adherence to protecting the identity of those who attend the program and share regarding their "hurt, habit or hang-up."

She explained that the CR program is a Christ-centered, 12-step recovery program for anyone struggling and offers "a safe place to find community and freedom from the issues that are controlling our life." Sam said she has issues regarding anger management and co-dependency and credits CR with helping her to regain control of her life.

"CR accepts you where you are," she said. "This is a refuge; a place for belonging; a place to care for others and be cared for. I cannot say enough about how blessed I am to have CR. This is a place to come that offers respect to each member and allows us to take off our masks. In CR we are able to grow and become strong again."

Sam also pointed out that the CR program is not therapy, or a place for perfection. She said it is also not a long-term commitment, or a "quick fix."

The CR program starts each Tuesday with doors opening at 6:15 p.m. for refreshments and fellowship and follows with large group sessions, open share small groups and has Step Study groups available.

Following the CR presentation, Wright took recommendations from the Ministry Council about how to begin promoting its message about addiction prevention.

The group has agreed to promote a special park rally tentatively scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 30, in concert with "National Addiction Awareness Month." The event, "Attacking Addiction through Christ," will be held in Market Square Park, Laurel, and is scheduled for 5 p.m. (subject to change). The rally is described as "a night of worship, prayer and reflection for the power of breaking addiction."

The next meeting of the Laurel Ministry Council will be held on Thursday, Sept. 13, at 6 p.m. in Laurel Town Hall (Mayor and Council Chambers). The meeting will be used to discuss plans for the upcoming Market Square Park rally.

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