Anti-drug workshop valuable

People of Blair County, particularly those residing in Altoona, where there are many rental properties, owe a debt of gratitude to the Altoona Housing Authority, Operation Our Town and the Central Pennsylvania Landlords Association.

The three entities’ commitment to being a roadblock to the illegal-drug scourge is helping area people understand what indicators to watch out for, to help authorities aggressively attack the seemingly ever-growing problem.

The battle against illegal drugs is a task for whole neighborhoods and communities. “Looking the other way” simply opens a window for more drug infiltration, more victims — and more overall harm.

Therefore, the information presented at the recent Landlord Educational Workshop sponsored by the three local entities hopefully will be disseminated throughout this county, also well beyond, in a way that will help produce positive impacts.

An article about the local meeting, published in the Nov. 8 Mirror, listed a number of indicators of illegal-drug activity.

Although that meeting was geared in large part to landlords and agency representatives, it was a source of guidance for others who have watched — and become increasingly alarmed — as suspicious activities formerly not seen in their neighborhoods have become increasingly more commonplace.

One of the good points made during the workshop was that the best way for landlords to curtail drug activity is to perform regular apartment inspections.

“You’re the owner,” said Cheryl Johns, housing authority executive director. “You have the responsibility to see who is residing (in your property) and the condition (of that property).”

She emphasized to the 130 people in attendance that prescreening of applicants is important, but also acknowledged that doesn’t prevent an authorized tenant from bringing in someone “through the back door.”

Vigilance by landlords and neighbors is indispensable in preventing drug activity from gaining a foothold in places where it might not have been a problem up to now.

Left to grow, the problem will become more entrenched and more difficult to attack successfully.

Most people concerned about the lives being wrecked by illegal or abused substances or medications have heard how this county is being victimized by individuals from bigger cities such as Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

And the problem is more than about actual drug shipments.

There have been many instances when dangerous individuals from those big cities have taken up temporary residence here in rental units — sometimes in units rented and resided in by local individuals — from which they coordinate distribution of illegal, potentially deadly substances in this area.

Altoona Police Detective Lt. Ben Jones, who at the workshop reviewed common indicators of drug dealing and drug manufacturing in rental housing, reminded session attendees that those individuals’ dealing puts rental properties and the neighbors of those properties at serious risk.

During the session, workshop attendees were accorded many good observations and received plenty of good advice.

Their challenge now is to put that information to work, not only for their own benefit but for their community’s overall benefit as well.

Ignoring the signs of drug activity is like laying down a welcome mat for it.