Elizabethtown Police Chief Ed Cunningham briefed Borough Council members on the new Second Chance program, in which police will look for ways to not charge people for minor offenses if they go into treatment for addiction.
Cunningham said at the Borough Council meeting on Thursday, Dec. 20, that one example would be someone pulled over for a traffic violation who has drug paraphernalia visible in the vehicle. Rather than arresting the person for possession of drug paraphernalia, police can call in someone from Elizabethtown-based Blueprints for Addiction Recovery and get the person into treatment. Both the Elizabethtown Borough police and the Northwest Lancaster County Regional Police Department, which serves West Donegal and Mount Joy townships, are participating.
“Law enforcement needs to find a better way to help people who are struggling with addiction,” Cunningham said.
The program officially launches on Jan. 1, but Cunningham said it has already had three successes with getting people into treatment.
For more serious offenses, Cunningham said the person will still be charged with a crime, but police will try to get the person into treatment.
Councilors said they liked the program.
“It’s another tool in the toolbox that can help,” Council President Marc Hershey said.
“Finally, people are starting to realize that you can’t arrest your way out of this problem,” said Councilor Bill Troutman, who has personal experience with addiction, though not anything illegal. He was prescribed painkillers following a traffic crash in February that left him severely injured; the prescribed treatment left him with an addiction.
Cunningham said in an interview after the meeting that addicts are welcome to approach police and ask for help, but it will take some time before police develop a reputation for wanting to help addicts.
“Generally, we’re seen as the enemy,” Cunningham said, adding that stigmas need to be broken on both sides.
Also at the meeting, councilors voted unanimously to approve a real estate tax rate of 4.4 mills for 2019, up from 4.3 mills in 2018. The rate means that for every $100,000 of assessed value, a homeowner will be billed $440 in property taxes.
They also voted unanimously to approve an agreement with Columbia Borough in which Columbia will accept yard waste from Elizabethtown and compost it. Under the new agreement, Elizabethtown residents will be able to get yard waste picked up year-round every two weeks.