Writer: adopt harm reduction strategies or become a ghost town


Nine months ago, on June 22, 2018, the Eaton Police, Camden Police and Preble County Sheriff’s Office ‘raided’ 610 Aukerman Street. Preble County Commissioner Rodney Creech posted video and images of the event thanking officers for ‘cleaning up the streets.’ The video quickly generated 15,000-20,000 views and there were multiple comments.

The arrests yielded two felony indictments (for a total of six counts), seven misdemeanor cases and apparently a promotion for a police officer.

But did it help the city of Eaton?

The court cases yielded a felony diversion and a felony conviction. The conviction resulted in a year imprisonment – the second prison term on a drug charge from Preble County for the defendant. The other seven misdemeanors cases yielded five convictions and two dismissals, and the fines and court costs totaled more than $2,500.

So far, it all sounds pretty good – strong conviction rates and imposed fines.

But what ‘looks good on paper’ is not always successful in real life.

First the money – today most of it is still owed. Only one defendant paid off their fines. The others, at least in EMC, appear to be indigent, so they have no funds. Second, based on the number of arrests before and after June 22 – these individuals are dealing with chemical addiction or substance abuse. One individual has been arrested nine times since June 22 – and at least two of the defendants have more than 50 EMC cases in their lifetime.

Jail has not been an effective deterrent.

But, at least Aukerman Street has been cleaned up, right?

The house at 610 Aukerman Street is still boarded up, impacting property values. With Needlers Market shutting this week, it joins at least four empty homes near 610 Aukerman Street. So, the neighborhood is dealing with abandoned homes, an empty storefront, and the accompany issues empty buildings bring.

But, the most significant indicator that the problem has not been successfully resolved can be learned on social media. There you read that drug activity has significantly increased on East Somers Street — about five blocks from the Aukerman Street home. So, in real life, all that occurred on June 22 was a shift in location for the drug activity. Now a new set of neighbors are finding needles, dealing with petty theft and the other issues that chemical addiction creates.

Last summer, a respondent on Mr. Creech’s Facebook wall summed up the solution very well. The commenter said:

“You can’t clean up the streets unless you provide places for people to recover…let’s see these people get into some good recovery programs and have a place to go when they get out, then you can tell me you’re cleaning up the streets of Eaton!”

The commenter is correct, and if this community doesn’t adopt harm reduction strategies (harmreduction.org) soon, we will be a ghost town.

Charlie Claywell