Drugs, gangs and mental health are the three timely key issues valley leaders focused on Friday morning as Attorney General Mark Herring concluded his statewide public safety tour in Waynesboro.
The purpose of Herring's tour was to identify needs and concerns within various communities. He hopes that by gathering this information, his office can recalibrate resources. Herring says we can expect to see changes in the coming months.
Law enforcement from Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County voiced what troubling trends keep them up at night.
"I heard some common themes. One of the things that I've been impressed with is the level of cooperation among different jurisdictions and different agencies," Herring said.
While all agree the area is relatively safe, most say criminal activity in the valley thrives on drug abuse, gangs like Sureno 13, and holes in the mental health system.
"The problems are intertwined, the bigger problem of course being controlled substances and illegal substances, but the gangs do lend a particularly violent aspect to it,” said Waynesboro Police Captain Mike Martin.
Police Reserve Captain Kevin Quick's death has been tied to gang activity. Now law enforcement stands united to tackle problems that might have fueled the loss of one of their brothers in blue.
But after thoughtful input and brainstorming during Herring's final regional stop to improve public safety in the commonwealth, no simple solution emerges.
"I think probably the biggest lesson is that public safety involves more than just arresting someone and putting them in jail,” Herring said. “It can involve substance abuse treatment, it can involve prevention and education. Certainly tougher enforcement and prosecution is also a part of it, but it's a whole range of things."
Herring and others remain hopeful that, moving forward, progress will come.
"By working together, we can best address those challenges,” Herring said.
His tour included 22 stops and more than 60 localities took part.