Anti-crime groups vow to ‘stop blaming and start reclaiming city’ against drugs

Ron James vowed to fight heroin and street violence in Williamsport until he drew his last breath.

“I’ll fight until I have no more breath in me,” said James, president of the Williamsport-Lycoming County Crime Commission, 1643 Memorial Ave., speaking Thursday at a news conference on crime prevention held by Mayor Gabriel J. Campana.

“It’s time we get together and stop blaming and start reclaiming,” said James, a reformed heroin addict, who said education is the key because the drugs sold on the streets today are more potent than ever.

He said that in the 1970s drug addicts knew what they were doing and would use just little bits here and there, but this “stuff,” he added, “is cut, mixed and deadly.”

That’s why James is supportive of efforts to educate youth and adults in a program called “Bootcamp of the Mind,” with the first of its kind classes to be held for three weeks in October at a location to be determined.

“How many parents can tell whether their kids are involved in drugs unless they are too?” James asked.

The camp, which James said will follow a script supported by professionals in the juvenile justice system, will be held 7 to 8 p.m. Oct. 7, 14, and 21.

Jeff Reeder, president of the Williamsport Citizens Corps Council, who reports citizen activities to council, joined Sally Wiegand, a neighborhood watch group coordinator who lives on Louisa Street, in support of educational efforts.

“My son has been clean nine years now,” Reeder said. “I believe in fostering all available information and exchanging ideas to help the police,” Reeder said.

Wiegand, who started and trained watched group participants, said she supports watch groups and hopes they grow. She said she also believes in Campana’s crime reduction plan and is hopeful fewer drug dealers chose Williamsport and drug users get the rehabilitation they need.

Drug dealing, violence and inappropriate behavior, especially among young adults, has a ripple effect, according to Bianca Hooper, a coordinator with the group Rise Above. The group is holding a seven-hour festival at Brandon Park from 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday. It will feature speakers, musicians, entertainment and at 5 p.m. a moment of silence to be led by Campana to remember those who fell victim to violence and show unity against criminal behavior.

“You need to go to the root of where violence begins,” Hooper said, hoping that showing role models and offering educational programs in the city will send the right message to impressionable youngsters to make intelligent choices.

Campana, meanwhile, said symbolic campaigns will continue. He said a citywide red ribbon campaign will start with hanging a ribbon at the house of Maynard Homler, 1439 Scott St., a neighborhood watch group leader for his neighborhood, site of two deadly shootings, city police said.