Titusville Police say drugs, guns on the rise - Titusville Herald: News

Titusville Police say drugs, guns on the rise

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Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2018 5:00 am

On Aug. 29, the Titusville Police Department (TPD), working with Pennsylvania State Probation Agents, arrested Joseph Bavis, 27, who was found to allegedly be in possession of methamphetamine, opiate narcotics and a loaded firearm.

What would normally be a fairly notable arrest for the TPD has become an increasingly normal situation for the department. Titusville police have made five arrests that involved both firearms and illegal narcotics since the first week of August.

While none of the arrests have so far resulted in a shootout with police, the department is on high alert with fears that a violent incident is bound to happen eventually.

“I think that there is a definite concern,” said Patrolman Jeff Prugh. “The game has kind of changed, I think, with the narcotics. We’re seeing way more guns.”

Prugh has been among the officers on the front lines of this spike in gun activity, according to Chief Harold Minch, having been personally involved in all but one of the arrests, three of which took place within the same week.

The first arrest in this wave of drugs and firearms took place on Aug. 3. An individual was reported passed out at the local Kwik Fill. Police responded and took Gale Flick Jr., 45, into custody, who allegedly had a loaded .357 handgun in addition to crystal methamphetamine and cocaine, according to Prugh.

Only three days later did the next arrest come, when Sarah Umanita Bloom, 27, was arrested following a police chase. Bloom was allegedly found in possession of a Hi-Point .40 caliber pistol with an altered serial number in her vehicle, along with four bags of methamphetamine, a large bag of marijuana and various prescription narcotics, according to the criminal complaint for the incident.

Trevor McGarvie was next, arrested on Aug. 7 for allegedly stealing a motorcycle after a foot chase. Prugh said that McGarvie had two handguns in a backpack, which he allegedly threw away while running from police.

Prugh could not recall the name of the person in the fourth arrest, which occurred on Aug. 12. During the arrest, two other Titusville officers arrested a man who had narcotics and a handgun in his possession, according to Prugh.

The names of the people in these incidents were no surprise to Titusville Police. Minch said that the department had dealt with them before on numerous occasions. However, the guns are new, and represent an unknown, and potentially dangerous factor, one that has launched multiple investigations by officers in the department.

“The question is, ‘Why are they carrying the guns?’” Minch said.

While the department is still trying to determine a cause for the uptick in firearms, Minch presented four theories to The Herald. The first two are relatively similar. Drug dealers and users in town could possibly be either being supplied by someone new, or selling to a new customer base.

Minch said that local people involved in the drug trade usually trust each other, and wouldn’t need firearms for interactions. Thus, dealing with a new person or group of people could cause a sense of paranoia, and thus a need for the drug traders to protect themselves until they are sure.

“It’s not your buddy,” Minch said. “It’s not somebody that you deal with every week, so you’re skeptical. That’s why you’ve got to carry a weapon now.”

The third theory, however, might be the hardest to discover if true, according to Minch. It is possible that drug users and dealers may have begun robbing one another of their supplies.

“If drug dealers rob each other, nobody calls the police,” Minch said, later stating “We don’t know what’s going on in their world.”

The fourth possibility given by Minch is that drug dealers have been able acquire greater sums of money through sales, causing them to be paranoid of thefts.

Regardless of the cause, the rise has the department on edge. Prugh said he has never seen guns and drugs mix together with the frequency they have over the past few weeks.

“It’s definitely alarming to see the uptick,” Prugh said. “We went from having zero guns on traffic stops and pursuits to a lot.”

The guns found in these incidents range in type and lethality. Minch and Prugh showed three of the firearms, which were recently confiscated, to The Herald.

One of them, a .357 Magnum, was described by Minch as a high power handgun. Another, a Hi-Point .40 caliber pistol, has magazine capable of holding 15 rounds.

“And all of these handguns are potentially lethal to us,” Prugh said. “Every gun’s lethal to us, but these are lethal weapons.”

Even when the guns themselves weren’t powerful, they carry risks. The third gun shown to The Herald was a Jennings .380 pistol. According to Minch, the guns are cheaply made, and could potentially explode in a user’s hand. Further, the guns could make police interaction more dangerous.

“And the problem is, if you’re carrying one of these, the chances of you getting killed by us goes up dramatically,” Minch said. “There’s a dramatic increase in that possibility.”

While the police chief praised the ability of his officers in reacting fast enough to prevent anyone from pulling a gun during the five arrests, he fears there may be a ticking clock until a shoot-out occurs.

“Sooner or later, somebody’s going to be just high enough, or just desperate enough, to try and get away,” Minch said. “And they’re going to use it.”

Fortunately for Titusville Police, they have help. Prugh said that the department has been able to get the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a federal organization, and both the Pennsylvania Probation and Parole department and the Attorney General’s Office. Meanwhile Minch said that the Crawford and Venango counties Sheriff’s Office have shared information with area departments about potential problem suspects.

However, until a cause in the firearms uptick can be determined, Minch is recommending that Titusville-residents be vigilant, and contact Crawford County Dispatch, at (814) 724-2548, for suspicious, non-emergency situations.

“They shouldn’t worry that it turns out to be nothing later,” Minch said. “We’re okay with that. We would rather you call us 100 times for something that doesn’t happen, than not call us one time for something that does happen.”

Further, Prugh said legal gun owners in the area should make sure to inform police if they are pulled over with a firearm in their vehicle, and should not store any guns in their vehicles overnight to avoid them being stolen.

Prugh said, “A gun that’s taken inside and stored properly is one less gun that might end up back on the street that can hurt one of us.”

Ray can be reached, by email, at sray@titusvilleherald.com.

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1 comment:

  • Jahoba posted at 10:04 pm on Fri, Sep 7, 2018.

    Jahoba Posts: 75

    Another black eye for Titusville.

     

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