The following is just an example of what’s going on in small towns around the country
Drug crimes taxing Marshfield police force
by Patrick Ronan / The Patriot Ledger
MARSHFIELD — A recent home invasion in which three men were tied up and one was severely injured was the latest drug-related crime in Marshfield, where the police chief says such crimes have been steadily increasing.
“Not only have our calls for service increased, but the severity of the crimes has increased,” Chief Phil Tavares said.
In the past 18 months, Marshfield has had a murder, five armed home invasions, a stabbing and a string of robberies. Tavares said drugs can’t be blamed for all of those crimes, but he said a drug epidemic is overextending his police force.
Police said the home invasion on Acorn Street last Tuesday was connected to a marijuana-growing operation inside the house. Last August, a gunshot was fired inside a Marshfield apartment complex in an alleged drug deal gone bad.
Last January, several people were arrested and charged with breaking into dozens of local homes. At the time, Tavares described the robbers as “drug-dependent.”
Although most local communities are feeling the ill effects of the drug trade, Marshfield has been hit particularly hard. A Patriot Ledger analysis of death certificates from 2009 and 2010 found that Marshfield had the highest overdose rate of 10 towns south of Boston that were studied.
Tavares speculated that Marshfield’s rate may be a little higher than those of other South Shore towns because Marshfield is more economically diverse. But he urged the public not to stereotype Marshfield based on statistics.
“It happens all over the region,” Tavares said. “It’s not just happening in Marshfield.”
State Sen. Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth, whose district includes Marshfield, said there is more work lawmakers can do to curb the drug-related crimes and deaths.
Some of the measures he would consider supporting are tougher prison sentences for drug dealers, better rehabilitation programs for addicts and tighter restrictions on the manufacturing of prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Percocet.
“I think it’s worse than most people realize,” Hedlund said.
Tavares said the crime increase has resulted in high overtime costs. He plans to ask town leaders this year for money to hire additional officers.
With more than five months left in the fiscal year, Marshfield police are on pace for $830,000 in overtime, or nearly four times the department’s overtime budget.
Marshfield Treasurer-Collector Nancy Holt agreed that overtime deficits correlate with staff cuts. She said the police department’s full-time staff was reduced from 48 to 45 officers in 2009. Tavares said he currently has 42 full-time officers.
But Holt said the police department has been getting the maximum amount of money the town can afford.
“We build our budget based on the revenues we have coming in, and unfortunately there hasn’t been any new revenue,” she said. “The state aid has been relatively flat, the local receipts have actually declined, and our investment income is nonexistent.”