Federal government: City becoming ‘source’ for heroin

Hours after a police captain said Williamsport was a source city for heroin, City Council continued to debate whether it would approve a city rental ordinance holding landlords accountable for their properties.

“We’re a source city for heroin and a supplier for users as far as Schuylkill County,” said police Capt. Timothy Miller, referring to a federal law enforcement source.

The debate on the rental ordinance continued until after midnight.

Officials from Wilkes-Barre and Berwick spoke about their similar ordinances, crime rates and similar problems, such as gun and drug violence, and in Berwick, meth labs.

The discussion occurred after at least 10 people spoke. Some of whom were in favor, but others, such as Kathryn Nassburg, saw portions of the proposed law ambiguous and superfluous to the existing landlord-tenant regulations.

More than 60 percent of properties in the city are rentals, according to Miller.

“We have a rental-based crime problem,” he said showing three years worth of information by mapping out the city and showing red dots where crimes repeatedly occurred. The red dots appears as large splotches on the map.

“We need your help, our community needs your help,” Miller said. “We have the power to change the tide in Williamsport,” he said of the ordinance, which he said would help promote a healthier, safer and more moral city.

“The murderers are coming here and they are staying with someone,” said Capt. Michael Orwig, a 28-year veteran. “These are not home-owning residents.”

Councilman N. Clifford “Skip” Smith said he has personally observed drug deals occurring in his neighborhood.

Councilwoman Bonnie Katz said her concerns were how the ordinance can accomplish what it intends to do and she believes the introduction of a records-management system in place in the spring should help create a database that can make it easier for police and codes officials to do just that.

Councilman Jonathan Williamson said the one critical component he favored was how it empowers landlords to make it easier to get rid of people involved in crime. His concern, however, was to do it right.