Neighborhood watch group aims to "reclaim community"

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HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - About forty residents in Summit Park have formed a neighborhood watch group to address a growing number of issues, including drugs and dilapidated houses.

Sitting before Harrison County commissioners Wednesday, Kathy Lucente sought guidance on how to deal with issues like speeding and a lack of road signs, but then she turned her attention to drugs: the reason the neighborhood watch group got off the ground last week.

"I picked up a hypodermic needle," Lucente said after the meeting, recalling the time she picked up a needle at a school bus stop. "It's not okay."

If you drive through Summit Park, it's hard to miss the run down homes, some of which are slowly getting consumed by grass and weeds. And while they may be abandoned, neighbors say they're not always empty.

"A lot of these abandoned houses, drug dealers are using them for a safe haven," said Jack Morton, who's lived in Summit Park for more than 60 years.

Recently Morton has noticed an uptick in petty crime, like stolen license plates. He's pressing for a heavier police presence.

"The lack of police presence--I know that they can't be everywhere all the time, but we need to look out for ourselves and take care of our community," Morton emphasized.

The Harrison County Sheriff's Office recently assigned a deputy to act as a liaison to the neighborhood watch group. Sheriff Robert Matheny says the problems in Summit Park mirror those in many other communities in the county, but he acknowledges the concerns about police coverage there are valid.

"It's a fair criticism and I don't think there ever will be enough police officers to adequately patrol," Sheriff Matheny conceded, adding that his office plans on putting more deputies out on the streets in the coming months.

Sheriff Matheny, who commended the residents' move to form the group, also heard their concerns about a halfway house outside of Summit Park.

In March, police issued federal warrants there and Sheriff Matheny says they confiscated drugs from the facility as well.

You can hear that part of the conversation in the video above.