Neighborhood watches help with drug arrests: police chief

JOHNSTOWN – The city’s two neighborhood watches are making a difference, city police Chief Mark Gifford said Monday night.

During his monthly report to the Common Council at City Hall, Gifford made reference to the city’s two recognized neighborhood watch programs.

Hometown Market co-owners Suzy and Mike Mathews started the west-side neighborhood watch group, which meets periodically at the 9 S. Melcher St. store. A north-side watch group organized by Patricia Isabella has been meeting at the J.B. Waterway Bar & Grill, 102 1/2 Water St.

Gifford told the council that neighborhood watch tips are “still coming in.” He encouraged city residents to continue to call the police department at 736-4021 to report any suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.

The chief said tips from neighborhood watch members have already resulted in felony drug arrests in which suspects were charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance.

But Gifford cautioned the public should never try to intervene by themselves, and to strictly call in the suspicious activity they might see.

“Do not involve yourself,” Gifford stated. “Call the police and we’ll handle the situation.”

Elsewhere in his police report, Gifford noted participation by his department and the community in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Eighth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 26 went well.

The chief reported his department collected four 30-gallon trash bags full of outdated or unused prescription drugs that were discarded by the public. Authorities took possession of the drugs to destroy them. The national Take-Back initiative aims to provide a safe, convenient and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.

According to the DEA, more than 6 million Americans abuse prescription drugs. The DEA says more than 70 percent of people abusing prescription pain relievers got them through friends or relatives, a statistic that includes raiding the family medicine cabinet.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at