Team Williamsport: Good concept, smarter execution needed

Let’s start with a basic premise: The Team Williamsport concept as presented by Assistant Police Chief Tim Miller and Mayor Gabriel J. Campana is a good way to get citizens aware and involved in the crimefighting and codes challenges of their city.

But that doesn’t mean the details of how to get 200 people properly involved don’t need some work.

And in our view, taking a large group of civilians, including children, on a police/codes shutdown of a property where heroin and firearms deals allegedly have taken place is not safe and fraught with potential catastrophe.

The administration has assured us that the citizens are merely in the background learning what this work looks like while police and codes personnel do the actual work.

But the bottom line is, anytime someone knocks on a door and says, “open up, police,” anything can happen when that door opens.

We think it’s great that the administration has more than 200 people involved in helping solve the city’s codes, crime and drug problems.

Things should be found to get these people further involved. But ambushes have too much potential for peril to have residents in close proximity.

After receiving feedback regarding the large group approach this past week, Mayor Campana told the Sun-Gazette late Friday afternoon that he is strongly considering not using large groups of unarmed civilians and children in future walkups.

We want to assume the administration is looking for a unique way to attack its drug, crime and codes problems. But its propensity to go it alone without covering logical bases tends to keep it from getting maximum results out of such efforts.

Mayor Campana, for instance, scheduled a June 5 heroin summit in the city. He invited the vice president, the governor and the mayor of Philadelphia, U.S. senators and representatives from Pennsylvania, but no one from the local heroin task force. At least not until after he had publicly announced his list of invitees.

We won’t try to figure out how that happened and why, but it’s completely disrespectful toward the people who have organized a well-thought-out, grassroots effort that probably represents the best plan we’ve seen to date to stem the tide of illegal drugs threatening to over-run the city and area.

It cut into the task force’s well-earned momentum.

The heroin problem is bigger than just the city. It’s not going to be solved by a city-based plan.

It’s going to be solved by a coordinated effort of the state and county crime and justice leadership and those in other professional positions to fight the roots of the problem.

We suggest the mayor put the heroin task force leadership in a prominent role at his summit.

And we suggest a small group of adult civilians would be the appropriate way to channel the energies of Team Williamsport in the next walk, followed by erection a few days later of a sign reclaiming the property in question for the citizens of Williamsport.

Possibly at such an event, more members of Team Williamsport can participate and show support for the anti-drug effort.