Despite the issues Mashpee has experienced recently with substance abuse and crime, only 15 residents attended a community forum with Mashpee Police Chief Rodney C. Collins yesterday afternoon to discuss the problems the town is facing.
The event, held at the Mashpee Public Library, was organized by Mashpee Cares, a community effort committed to building a safe and healthy environment for all residents.
The program, which was scheduled to last two hours but ran for 55 minutes, was billed as discussion of substance abuse and its relation to crime.
“Somewhere in the vicinity of 90 percent of crime in Mashpee is the result of the trickle down effect of substance abuse. Whether it be more serious crimes such as shootings or robberies, to less serious crimes like car break-ins, the common denominator is drugs,” Chief Collins said, noting that in addition to substance abuse, mental illness is also one of the biggest issues affecting the rate of criminal activity in town.
He also warned that the typical substance abuse user cannot be stereotyped as a young person, citing a recent overdose by an older woman. While he did not specifically reference the incident, a 63-year-old woman overdosed on heroin on May 15 at the Southport “active adult” retirement community, and had to be revived with Narcan, a nasal spray antidote to an opiate overdose.
“I’ve never seen it as bad as it is,” Chief Collins said regarding the rampant use of illegal drugs.
During the course of his address, Chief Collins discussed the operational structure of the Mashpee Police Department, as well as offered safety tips to the audience.
He stressed that residents need not fear reporting suspicious activity to the police, and that identifying oneself was not necessary.
“Don’t think you are wasting our time. Let us be the judge of what requires a response,” Chief Collins said.
He also urged citizens to lock their vehicles and homes, and notify a neighbor or relative if they planned to be away from their homes for an extended period of time.
“This is Cape Cod and not Boston, but despite the quality of life we enjoy here, there are criminals lurking.” the chief added.
To remedy the substance abuse and companion crime problem, Chief Collins several times mentioned two words—education and treatment.
“It’s going to take education and treatment to get this problem under control,” he said, giving an endorsement to his “beloved” Boys and Girls Club of Cape Cod, which is reaching out to young people about the dangers of substance abuse.
He likened the current situation to a solution that has been used to stem the use of tobacco for decades. “We educate the public with a powerful message, and soon the Marlboro Man went away, and the smoking rate declined,” he said.
He also said that the addition of a school resource officer, enhanced visibility by the police department throughout town—including a walking beat at Mashpee Commons, and the department’s recent policy to carry and administer Narcan will make an impact on the problem.
There were many town employees and elected officials in the audience, including school superintendent Brian A. Hyde, school committee chairman Scott P. McGee, Police Captain Scott W. Carline, board of selectmen chairman Wayne E. Taylor, selectman John J. Cahalane, human services director Gail Wilson, and library director Kathleen Mahoney.
“I just think the more that we can get people to talk about tough issues and show interest, the better we are. My goal is to get more town leaders involved in the effort, and Chief Collins is one of the people in town that is well respected and can answer a lot of questions and address citizen concerns,” selectman Michael R. Richardson, who works closely with Mashpee Cares, said.
A similar program will be held at the Mashpee Senior Center on June 24. When asked if there were plans to hold an event when younger residents, such as those who were working or commuting home when yesterday’s program was being held, Mr. Richardson said that it would be considered.
Yesterday’s event was recorded by Mashpee TV and will be broadcast at a later date.