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Assistance: Council, police deserve praise for outreach

Parkersburg City Council took an important step this week in adjusting its approach to the way law enforcement interacts with our community’s homeless population.

Members approved on first reading an ordinance that creates a civilian homeless outreach coordinator to work with the Parkersburg Police Department to handle the issues that arise with homeless individuals. Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin said the new coordinator will give officers more time to deal with other concerns.

“It adversely affects our call volume (and) the morale of the guys that deal with … the same kind of people,” Martin said. “A lot of them are mentally ill, and it makes no sense to us why they’re homeless. But it makes perfect sense to them.”

It is easy to see why law enforcement professionals would welcome a person who can lift some of that burden from them while also working with an incredibly vulnerable population from a position of more specific training and skills.

“Right now, arresting these folks for these crimes is not effective,” Mayor Tom Joyce said. “Our vision for this employee, this person, is to assist them in getting the help they need to get out of homelessness.”

Bravo to council and the police department for taking this step.

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