For police, drug tips 'a piece of the puzzle'

The task force's Keith Keesee (left), Mike Wilhelm, Jim Williams, Donald Smith and David Hill answer questions about reportadrugdealer.com in Waynesboro on Friday. 

WAYNESBORO — Law enforcement agencies are asking the public to be the "eyes and ears" of their local communities in an effort to reduce the sale and use of illicit drugs in the area. To help with that mission, the multi-agency Skyline Drug Task Force has launched ReportADrugDealer.com — a website for anonymous tips.

ReportADrugDealer.com — based on a similar initiative launched last year by the Greater Augusta Prevention Partners (GAPP) Coalition — is a collaboration between the Augusta County and Nelson County sheriff’s offices, the Waynesboro and Staunton police departments, the Virginia State Police, and the GAPP Coalition. Together, officers from those agencies make up the Skyline Drug Task Force.

The website is up, running and ready for the community’s tips.

“Law enforcement officers and agencies [as a] whole can only be as strong as our community allows us to be,” Nelson County Sheriff David Hill said at a meeting Thursday publicizing the website address. “With this initiative, in the technological world that we live in, people [are able to] get that information out without speaking face-to-face.”

ReportADrugDealer.com allows people to leave tips and remain completely anonymous.

“We don’t require them to provide us with any information,” Mike Wilhelm, WPD chief, said. “If they do want to provide us with information, we’ll follow up with that. It’s just like [the telephone hotline] Crime Stoppers — it’s 100 percent anonymous and we’re not trying to track the person down to attain additional information.”

Staunton Police Chief Jim Williams said tips are important.

“Tips are huge; sometimes when you’re putting a drug case together it’s like a puzzle," he said. "You just need that last piece and sometimes that’s an anonymous tip. We need to hear from the public [and] this is just one more way for us to hear from them.”

The idea to launch a full-scale version of the website came after the GAPP Coalition received a good response from its version, which it set up and used in Waynesboro last year.

When a tip comes in, it either goes to the Skyline Drug Task Force or to the individual agencies that make up the task force.

“The drug problem in all of our localities is a problem,” Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith said. “[Community members] have to be our eyes and ears. It’s a numbers game for us; we don’t have the resources we need to find everything. We rely on the public.”

The agencies will decipher between legitimate tips and those that may be either innocent mistakes, or intentionally erroneous. Tips are just one piece of the puzzle, Williams said. It’s not probable cause for searching a residence.

They hoped to get the word out about ReportADrugDealer.com on social media and by yard signs around the cities and counties. Social media and other websites can link to ReportADrugDealer.com with a "button" on their home page that people can click on.

Joy Stultz of the GAPP Coalition encouraged everyone to spread the word.

“Anyone can support it and put a button on their website,” she said. “The easier it is to access, the more people that will use it.”

If interested in linking or adding a button to a website, contact the GAPP Coalition at valleyprevention.com.

Captain Keith Keesee represented the Virginia State Police at the meeting on Thursday. He said they look forward to making the communities a safer place to live.

“Community input is vital,” he said.

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