Chosen by the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware was presented with a CARES award during the 2018 Ohio Opiate Conference held last week in Columbus.
This was the ninth annual opiate conference hosted by the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, the trade association that represents Ohio’s Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) boards. This was the first year for the new CARES Awards, presented to first responders described as having gone above and beyond in helping individuals, families and their communities deal with the adverse effects of the state’s opiate epidemic.
“I’m humbled by the award,” said Chief Ware. “But it’s really a testament to the men and women who work for me. They’re the boots on the streets trying to make a difference… This award is not about me, it’s the city’s award. I’m just the voice.”
Ware was named the 59th chief of police for the city of Portsmouth in December 2012.
“Chief Ware’s police department has developed a targeted enforcement program in cooperation with the probation departments, the fire department and the health department to combat drug trafficking in the neighborhoods, closing nuisance properties and re-mediating abandoned houses that attract illicit behavior,” opiate conference sponsors wrote in a press release.
“The Portsmouth PD has coordinated extensively with various social, medical, mental health and court agencies to develop a means of giving individuals the chance of successful rehabilitation and recovery,” the release continues.
After giving credit to his officers, Ware said much the same, stating that for him a major part of his duties include contact and coordination of activities with various government agencies and community stakeholders. Ware added law enforcement has what he called a vital role in leading the fight against opiates and addiction, but he added they “are just one voice at the table,” can’t work in a vacuum and clearly can’t solve the problem by themselves.
Ware continued that while he believes Portsmouth police have done a pretty good job over the last 15 years, he does not for a second think that job is anywhere near completed.
“Obviously, there’s much more to be done,” Ware said. He talked about being innovative and not sticking with the status quo. Ware wants to strengthen collaborations between police and the community groups having the most successes. Ware repeatedly mentioned education and access to treatment and recovery as key to solving the opiate problem, along with law enforcement.
On the enforcement front, Ware said police and the city have tried to be proactive in attacking blighted or nuisance properties that tend to attract drug-related behavior. Ware said he wants to continue to see those properties boarded up and, if necessary, torn down. While he did not mention any specific areas of the city as problem areas, Ware said low income neighborhoods dominated by rental properties are typically problem spots. “A property owner usually takes better care of their property than a renter.”
One area in which Ware seems anxious to point out improvement are statistics that show decreases in the numbers of youth starting down the path of addiction. In discussing Ware’s award, reference was made to department sponsored mentoring programs in schools in which officers encourage children to live drug-free. The award sponsors stated Ware “directed” his officers to develop those mentoring programs. Ware changed the wording to “allowed his department” to develop mentoring programs.
“I think the education component is working,” Ware said.
Ware was asked why a small town such as Portsmouth became such a hotbed of illicit drug activity. He stated several factors played into that situation, those factors including education levels and poverty. “There’s only so many jobs here,” Ware said. “If you ever tried to raise a family on a minimum-wage job, you know that just doesn’t work.”
Reach Tom Corriganat 740-353-3101