While ferries and voters forums are seemingly the hottest topics in Clinton these days, another problem is lurking about.
In response to a buildup of drug activity happening both in neighborhoods and downtown, the Clinton Chamber of Commerce is holding a community crime prevention meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 10 at the Clinton Community Hall. In attendance will be representatives of the Island County Sheriff’s Department, County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, Island County Parks Superintendent Jan vanMuyden and a representative of the county’s human services department.
Stephanie Cook, president of the Clinton Chamber of Commerce, said that along with drug usage, petty crime and homelessness are also issues. She said the drug-related activity may have migrated down the island, starting in Bayview then moving from Scatchet Head to Ken’s Korner, before digging its teeth into Clinton.
“There’s been issues over time,” Cook said. “It’s really ramped up in the last six months.”
Clinton is not alone in dealing with drug activity. The Langley City Council recently approved a “sample” ordinance that will restrict usage of Seawall Park from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. due to a surge in heroin syringes being found in the park. The ordinance will require another vote before it goes into effect.
Detective Ed Wallace, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said department leaders will be there to answer questions and provide input. Wallace said the problems happening in Clinton are consistent with those around the island. Dan Porter Memorial Park has also been a hub for some of the activity, he said, because it is shielded from public view and has dark areas that allow for drug usage. The same could be said for Seawall Park, he said.
Wallace said that it’s hard to gauge whether there’s been a major spike in Clinton as opposed to other areas, but that there certainly has been reported drug activity. Heroin is also becoming a drug of choice over methamphetamine.
“Opioids are definitely a problem and it’s definitely spreading,” Wallace said. “It’s a statewide problem and it’s a nationwide problem.”
“Is it an epidemic? It just depends on what your definition of epidemic is,” he added.
With the drug usage also comes property crimes and other illegal activities, he said.
Price Johnson said law enforcement believes the Clinton-to-Mukilteo ferry route is a portal for drug trafficking. The increase in activity could also be linked to the rise in opioid use in Island County, she said. But, the problem is not new to the area.
“It’s an issue that has continued,” Price Johnson said. “I think there’s been a recent resurgence of it.”
A rise in homelessness is also making for more visible problems in Clinton, Price Johnson said. She intends to actively listen during the meeting and see where she can help, she said.
“I’ve talked to some business owners and there’s a lot of effort being put into the revitalization of Clinton,” Price Johnson said. “I want to make sure I’m doing what I can to support that, and not go backwards.”
Cook said the general purpose of the meeting is making people aware of the problem and starting a dialogue. If the community can accept there is a problem and residents keep their eyes open, it will be better equipped to mitigate it.
Cook, who also owns Cozy’s Roadhouse in Clinton, said that while negative impacts of the drug activity and drug dealing have not yet been felt by businesses, she said catching the problem before it gets out of hand will be key. She hopes residents, business owners and other members of the community attend the meeting.
Wallace echoed Cook’s sentiments by saying that reporting suspicious activities and informing police about where the problems are occurring will help law enforcement in patrolling affected areas. The community can serve as an extension of the department by acting as its eyes and ears, he said.
He recommended that in addition to reporting suspicious activities, people should write down license plate numbers of suspicious vehicles, lock their doors and protect anything that can be carried away.
“Just be careful and take the standard kind of precautions,” Wallace said.