Business owners air concerns at Coffee with Cops event

Several local business owners attended Coffee with a Cop to discuss their concerns with the Huntington Police Department, Wednesday morning at Crumpets and Tea.

The quarterly event is usually held at Huntington’s Kitchen, but was moved due to renovations.

Chief Police Joe Ciccarelli touched on many topics from the continued fight against prostitution and panhandling to the HPD’s effort to expanding and diversifying the force.

Ciccarelli said he is hoping to hire more police officers in 2016 and said he plans on using new tactics to find future officers.

“When Doc Holiday goes out there to recruit for Marshall, he doesn’t put an ad in the paper,” Ciccarelli said.

The HPD wants community members and business owners to recommend individuals who they believe would make good additions to the police force.

Ciccarelli said HPD could start working with Marshall University, specifically the athletic department, to find potential new members.

Last year almost 300 individuals applied for positions with the HPD, however, the number dwindled following the agility and written tests.

“We are selective. We don’t take just anyone,” Ciccarelli said.

Ciccarelli presented information from the HPD annual report. Overall crime numbers have dropped since 2014, even though drug and prostitution arrests have gone up. According to Ciccarelli, prostitution arrests have doubled over the past year.

“I think one of the encouraging things I see are the diversion programs,” Ciccarelli said. “One person at a time, one street corner at a time. That is how we are going to have to solve this.”

The HPD officers reminded business owners to not give money to the panhandlers, a point they made at the September Coffee with a Cop. Panhandling has become a growing issue in downtown Huntington, which many correlate to the growing drug problem.

“I’m trying to address it as best I can, but it is a slow process,” officer Randy Spears said. “There is hope. It takes time, but people do change.”

Coffee with a Cop is a quarterly event that gives local business owners a platform to discuss their concerns and build relationships with the Huntington Police Department. The next Coffee with a Cop will take place March 2, 2016.

MacKenzi Kyle can be contacted at [email protected]