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 Hypodermics Aside, Park Still a Safe Stroll

There is a drug problem in Knightstown.

To some people that’s not exactly breaking news. But the drug problem that many people choose not to talk about hit a little too close to home for some of us over the weekend.

Monday night I went to the Optimist Club diamonds to watch some of the KHS girls softball game against Tri High. I was approached by five different people who wanted to talk about the news.

A local man was strolling through Sunset Park with his young son when he found used hypodermic needles. He called the Knightstown Police Department (KPD) and reported the incident, and a subsequent investigation resulted in officer Derek Hall finding six needles in the park.

In all likelihood, the needles were used to inject heroin, KPD Chief Danny Baker told me Monday night. Baker, like many other people, was at the ball diamond to watch a grandson play in a Pee Wee League baseball game.

Saturday, there were several hundred people in the park watching countless kids play baseball and softball. It’s a scene that’s repeated six days a week. It’s easy to understand the too-close-to-home smack-in-the-mouth some local residents felt when they heard the news that needles were found in the park - a park that hundreds of people and their children - use every weekend, all summer long.

It was an uneasy feeling.

If you are like me, you knew there were a lot of drugs in Knightstown and you just assumed the primary problem was probably limited to the less dangerous and less lethal illegal drugs. Many of us have thought we might have a few problems with the really bad people … those who use crack or heroin. The rest were probably just casual marijuana users.

The ugly truth is that Knightstown has suffered four drug-related deaths in the last nine months and all four were either heroin or Meth amphetamine related.

Four overdoses resulting in death in less than nine months seems to me to be a rather large number for a town of this size.

The existence of the needles in the park scared the heck out of three mothers I spoke to Monday night. Once suggested she could no longer allow her child to play in the park.

But Baker said the KPD is working diligently on the problem. He said deputy Hall found six needles under the automobile bridge connecting the Optimist diamonds to the park and the walking bridge next to the Babe Ruth diamond.

“We have what I would call a serious heroin problem in Knightstown,” Baker said. “It just seems to be the drug of choice these days. We’ve had four deaths related to heroin and Meth, and I believe we have a usage among teenagers that could range in the 10 percent area.”

That’s pretty serious stuff, 10 percent. And those are just the teens.

The KPD has been stepping up its own war on drugs in Knightstown, and the finding of those needles is going to bring that much more heat to the table. Baker said Sunset Park has been searched thoroughly in an effort to prevent any more kids and/or their parents from stumbling upon more needles. Patrols have been stepped up dramatically in the park as well.

“The park is a safe place for residents to bring their kids,” Baker said. “People shouldn’t be afraid to bring their kids to the park and enjoy the facility. We’ve always taken the drug problems in this town seriously and we’re taking the finding of those needles very seriously.”

In the meantime, the chief doesn’t want Knightstown residents to be afraid of the park, but he does want them to be aware that some problems once thought to be just big city problems are here, whether or not some people want to admit it.

“We’ve been called to the high school because they found a needle there, too,” Baker said. “We have heroin, crack cocaine and meth in this town and the people who use that stuff are usually pretty good about keeping it covered up.

“We have the Neighborhood Crime Watch program underway here and we have officers constantly training and preparing to win this war. The more eyes we have out there the better chance we have to make a difference.”

In the meantime, Baker would like to see even more involvement in the Neighborhood Crime Watch program, which has seen almost remarkable participation in its infancy.

The truth is the drug problem in Knightstown is far worse than I thought it was, and I’m guessing many of you may feel the same way.

It’s all something we should be thinking and talking about.

In the meantime, if we decide to take a stroll through our neighborhood, or perhaps, the park, let’s all definitely watch where we step.


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