I recently published a series of eight articles about the local drug problem. From profiles of addiction to interviews with counselors at the Human Resource Center (HRC), I tried to help show the human side of the problem. I also spent time with local police and the State’s Attorney to present a picture of what local law enforcement was doing.
Over the eight weeks, a disturbing picture emerged. I knew this was a problem, but was surprised at how big a problem it was. The first thing was the immediate need for a drug dog to help with the enforcement effort of our local police department.
I’ve had quite a few calls and messages from people asking what they could do, and I’m heartened by every one of them. But another woman in particular not only wanted to help, but also had an idea about how to multiply her efforts.
Joanna Hebermehl is one of “100 Women Who Care,” which is a local group of women that meets several times a year, pledging to help local charities with a $100 donation each time they meet.
That’s $10,000 per charity, several times a year, and that’s multiplication of effort. To date, the local organization has helped our local food pantry, our local clothing ministry, the hats for kids campaign, and now, a local drug dog.
We spoke at length about the problems I’d been writing about, and she raised the possibility that 100 Women could possibly take care of the first $10,000 in one shot. So we discussed the uses of a drug dog, costs, etc… so she could effectively present it to the group during their quarterly meeting a week ago Tuesday night.
I put her in touch with Mike Henness, local Paris Chief of Police. She got some more facts from him, and was quickly followed up by two other women who also met with the Chief. Fully armed and prepared, these ladies then spread the word to the rest of the women, and Joanna gave a presentation to all the attending women at their Tuesday night meeting.
It must have been a good one, for I got a message later that night that the 100 Women cared enough to jump in and provide $10,000 to get the ball rolling! Wow. A new drug dog for the City of Paris was within reach! Well done, 100 Women Who Care!
It takes a couple weeks for all of the 100 women to bring in their $100, and then the 100 Women will write a $10,000 check to a special fund called “City of Paris K-9 Fund.” Chief Henness told me the funds will be specifically set aside and allocated for the purchase of a new dog from a reputable provider and trainer.
Further research by the Chief has revealed that it’s going to cost about $14,000 for a highly trained, dual purpose dog, with all of its basic training, and a very good warranty. The goal is that the dog can participate in not just drug searches, but tracking, apprehensions, and building searches too, making it even more valuable to our community.
While the K-9 is being trained, the K-9 officer goes through his own 5-week academy and then goes and spends a week or two with the dog before bringing him/her back home. They’ll also have written assurances that the dog is in good health, and a really good sniffer! They also want to ensure that he (or she) is also friendly to the public, especially kids in educational settings.
But as great as this initial donation from the 100 Women is, you can see that there’s more to be done. We’ll need at least $4,000 more to complete the process of getting a fully trained, dual purpose dog. That’s the most immediate and pressing need. But right after that is the need to get an appropriate vehicle, specifically outfitted to safely transport the K-9 when the officer and dog are on duty.
I spoke with Mayor Craig Smith who said, “This was an awesome idea; we need to move forward with this.” He’s confident the community will continue to back the idea and the City is going to do their part too. “We want this thing and we want it sooner rather than later,” he said.
Right now we have 71% of a new, fully-trained, dual-purpose K-9, thanks to the 100 Women. The Chief is researching several training K-9 academies right now and the City of Paris is working on helping get the best vehicle at the best possible price.
But we need more funding to bring this dog home. We need to help train the officer in appropriate legal methods and tactics. We need to provide for ongoing care and feeding of the K-9. And we need to help equip the special vehicle too.
I’ve recently been made aware that the Edgar County Sheriff Department has also applied for a federal grant (for another dog) that is available only to county Sheriff Departments. This is great. We used to have two K-9’s in this county. A dog in the county and a dog in the city would be the best possible scenario.
I can recall waiting a half-hour or more, before a county dog could come assist, if they were tied up on another call, or simply on the other side of the county. We need a dog just minutes away in the city. Also, both the officer and dog need some down time, so a second dog in the county will ensure one is always available.
So who’s going to step up alongside the 100 Women Who Care? Which local businesses and organizations are going to add their voice (and pocket book) to the 100 Women and be part of this community effort to help curb the local drug problem? When you look back five years from now, will you be able to say, “Yes, I was a part of that. We were a part of getting something done. We did something to help make a difference.”
I recognize that enforcement is but one side of the equation. We need to do more to support the people caught in this web of addiction and trying to get out. We need to do more with education and prevention for our kids and teens. But this is a start; a really good start!
Checks can be made out to “City of Paris K-9 Fund” and mailed to or dropped off at the Paris Police Department, 211 W. Washington, Paris, IL, Attention: Chief Henness.
This is an awesome community that always steps up when there’s a need. Let’s step up together on this too! Join us.