Much of the law enforcement's perspective at Friday's heroin task force meeting at Lycoming County Courthouse focused on the problem with rental properties.
"It's a rental-based crime problem," city police Capt. Tim Miller said. Many people they're seeing with heroin are visiting or renting properties, he said.
"Take the head off the snake" - look at where many of the drug sellers are congregating, he said.
About 70 percent of all calls come from rental properties, Miller said. Most are the same people "over and over," police Lt. Brett Williams said.
Some people from various larger cities come to smaller cities such as Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton and Altoona, not just Williamsport, with illegal drug activity, Williams said.
Miller concurred. "The majority of people we deal with aren't city residents," he said.
When the drugs, such as heroin, infiltrate the city, it affects the local community. "Our local people are the ones that are using," Williams said.
The large volume of calls from drug activity at rental properties requires a large amount of the force's resources, and detracts from the aggressive enforcement, creating a more reactive approach instead, Miller said. When officers are involved in aggressive management, they actively are looking for illegal activity and target resources based on statistics in areas where there is more crime.
"It's frustrating on the enforcement side," Williams said. "We're running from call to call to call."
Preventative measures seem somewhat elusive on the enforcement side. Years ago, the police were involved in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, teaching students how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug- and violence-free lives. Officers also used to be involved in the Williamsport-based Community Alliance for Progressive Positive Action.
No more, Williams said. When funding dried up, so did the feasibility of those interactions. District Attorney Eric Linhardt said more funding is needed for such programs, and treatment options need to be improved and expanded. He confirmed there needs to be more aggressive patrols and endorsed mass incarceration.
"Mass incarceration works" and money should be spent on it, Linhardt said.
Lycoming County Commissioner and landlord Tony Mussare said he supports some type of ordinance to make landlords more accountable for who is in their properties.