ToquiNotes: The Tipping Point in Drug Epidemic is Reached; We've Arrived at "The End of the Innocence"

By Jeff Toquinto on May 13, 2017 from ToquiNotes via

Back in 1989, Don Henley of Eagles’ fame wrote a song titled “The End of the Innocence.” That was in my mid college days and, well, my innocence was fading if not completely gone.
While you can find many references for what Henley’s lyrics meant, it’s longing for a time of nostalgia and the innocence we all held as youngsters. I think about that as I go to work every day and realize there’s a chance any time I hear sirens, get a text or receive a phone call that someone is going to alert me that not only is a drug-related situation going down, but the chances are good it may involve someone I know. 
The innocence I experienced is gone. Sadly, I don’t think there’s a chance too many will get to have the childhoods we had and we have a disgusting drug epidemic with an end that appears to be nowhere in sight to thank for it.
A few Sundays ago, I was at a friend’s 50th birthday party. While there, I saw his brother – a childhood friend – and his mother. It was at their house I spent many a night or at my house where he would crash.
We joked about the old days. We talked how he and I would often walk to each other’s house, probably about a mile away from one side of my stomping grounds in the North View section of Clarksburg to the other. I did the trip on foot, on bike, with friends and by myself dozens of times – sometimes after midnight.
If I had a child today, I wouldn’t allow that to happen. Not in North View, not where I live today in Clarksburg, not here in Bridgeport or anywhere else for that matter.
We are losing the battle despite the efforts of many. And let me be clear that there are no safe havens.
While we talk about losing an entire generation to the scourge of opioid, heroin, meth, cocaine and any other type of addition, we’ve already lost the innocence that our own children should be enjoying. I’m not saying that kids aren’t having fun and good parents aren’t providing a safe environment. Rather, I’m saying the safe environment is harder to navigate and comes with perils no one can prepare for because even bringing a child up in a bubble is no free pass to safety.
There have been shootings and murders and all kinds of crime in our area on a weekly basis now that you would be lucky to see once or twice a year just a decade or so ago. In the last few months, we’ve s had a couple of murders in North View, a pair of shootings in Stealey, and who knows what else I’m missing.
I can’t say all were drug related. I can say all could have been avoided.
The past few weeks were eventful locally right here in Bridgeport as well – right off Main Street here in Bridgeport – as a brazen attempt to break into Rite Aid took place, but failed. Eventually, whoever was involved opted to break into Bridgeport Physical Therapy next door and walk away with a bunch of computers.
I’m betting a good bit of money whoever was responsible wasn’t looking for an exercise bike. I’m betting even more money that those looking to break into Rite Aid weren’t there to steal as many birthday cards as they could get away with.
In late April, Lt. Detective Gary Weaver talked about several attempted break-ins in the heart of the city’s residential section that, fortunately, failed. As alarming as that is, what Weaver said about the situation involving crime in Bridgeport was spot on for those who think it can’t happen to them.
“We’re about 10 years behind,” Weaver said about the increase in crime in Bridgeport and the increase in the detective’s staffs work. “It took that long to get here.”
In most every situation like the attempted break-ins of home and other crimes, including the dozens of cars that have been victimized here in Bridgeport, the goal is either acquiring drugs or finding money or other resources to sell or trade for the purposes of drugs.
Our police in Bridgeport and beyond are bogged to the hilt. Our court systems are full. The same can be said of our jails. And the sad news is that there’s a long list of individuals waiting to fill the shoes of those who get busted and end up being incarcerated.
The tipping point from the drug problem we have in our area was reached some time ago. We’re on a downward slide and I don’t need to cite a study or look at statistics to know it. Drive through the downtowns of any city in North Central West Virginia and eventually you’ll find a lost soul addicted to drugs whose sole goal is to meet that addiction that day at whatever cost – damn the consequences on themselves, their families or loved ones.
For those debating whether drug addiction is a self-created problem or a diseases, perhaps a better debate at the moment would be trying to figure out how to someway, somehow reverse the tidal wave of drugs that have permeated the crossroads of Interstate 79 and U.S. Route 50. Anyone fortunate enough not to have their own life touched in the worst way by someone they have a blood bond with or that of a social one is blessed to say the least.
Here’s what I will sadly promise the person that doesn’t think the drug issue can or will touch them – it’s coming. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but it is coming. The question is whether that initial impact will come with an arrest, a call about someone in a hospital or the fact that someone you love or care about is in a body bag.
Those words aren’t meant to alarm anyone. They’re placed as fact. I’ve lived through it with more than one person close to me and now to a much lesser extent go to bed every night worrying about that middle of the night phone call.
I don’t know how to fix it and the fact is no one else out there does as well. I do know the saying “we can’t arrest our way out of this” is correct. And that’s not a shot at our men and women in uniform.
Look at any of them. See the fatigue in their faces and the angst in their eyes. Their days and nights are no longer filled with trying to crack down on traffic violators as much as it is knowing that the next call, paperwork and time in court is likely going to be drug related.
Want to blame the police? Feel free. Your blame is misguided no matter what argument you put forth.
In fact, cast blame for anyone to the side. Look for answers. Get involved. Better yet, start at home and make your own children understand consequences for their actions both good and bad. Again, I don’t know if that’s the answer, but learning repercussions for what one does is a lesson that works beyond drugs.
It certainly would be nice to go to work one week and not have to deal with or even write about crimes that have a drug angle. It would be even nicer to see an entire generation regained and once again be able to experience the innocence we have the good fortune of experiencing.
Don Henley was always right about it being the end of the innocence. That innocence shouldn’t end shortly after you learn to walk.
Editor's Note: Top photo, by Kyle Jenkins, is from a recent shooting incident in Stealey, while second photo is of an arrest in Bridgeport in Main Street Dairy Queen parking lot. The third photo shows drugs found last year in a Bridgeport hotel, while the fourth photo show Bridgeport Police on high alert entering a building in what fortunately turned out to be a false alarm. Fifth photo, Ben Queen, shows the tension of a situation, this one with a member of the Harrison County Sheriff's Department. Bottom photo shows Bridgeport Police and Task Force members at a major bath salts operation in 2012.

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