Herring holds public safety meeting on Va. Shore

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Source - Delmarva Now

We're here to help.

That was the main message Virginia Attorney General Mark H. Herring delivered during his regional public safety meeting Tuesday at the Chamber of Commerce building in Melfa.

The attorney general spoke with law enforcement, public safety and elected officials from Accomack and Northampton counties to hear what public safety issues exist on Virginia's Eastern Shore.

Tuesday's meeting was the final stop of Herring's second annual statewide public safety tour that began in March.

It was also one leg of the attorney general's visit to the Eastern Shore. Herring took an aquaculture tour at JC Walker Brothers Inc. in Willis Wharf, as well as a trip to the NASA Wallops Flight Facility.

Last year, Herring traveled more than 2,500 miles to hold 22 regional public safety meetings with representatives from more than 60 cities, counties, and towns.

The attorney general explained Tuesday he wanted to conduct the tour to hear firsthand the safety challenges communities in the commonwealth encounter.

"It really helped guide the legislative agenda this past General Assembly session," Herring said of last year's tour.

One of the top concerns addressed in 2014 was the growing prevalence of heroin and prescription drug use throughout Virginia.

The attorney general asked the group of 13 Eastern Shore officials if they have seen similar issues with narcotics.

Accomack County Sheriff Todd Godwin told Herring there have been five heroin-related deaths in the last three years.

"We're seeing it on the EMS side," added C. Ray Pruitt, acting director of public safety for Accomack County. "It's climbing."

Herring said the attorney general's office is seeking sanctions against doctors and pharmacists for overprescribing medications.

He also mentioned the recent statewide rollout of Virginia Rules, an initiative aimed at educating middle and high school students on Virginia laws and how to develop skills needed to make sound decisions.

"We're adding a module on prescription drugs and heroin to let them how dangerous they are," Herring said.

As far as public safety concerns that arise on the Eastern Shore, Virginia State Police Sergeant Aaron Warren mentioned the purchase of Virginia cigarettes that end up being sold in New York.

Because Accomack County has no additional locality tax for cigarettes, people are buying smokes in the $2-3 range before selling them for $8-9 in areas like Midtown Manhattan.

"It's causing a significant problem in New York City," Warren said.

Herring agreed it is a major issue, not only because the loss of Virginia tax revenue but also because the ancillary crimes associated with transporting cigarettes across state lines, such as money laundering and other types of narcotics sales.

He offered to help combat the problem through the use of the attorney general's tobacco enforcement unit.

"We do a lot of auditing where we can pick up patterns through audits," said Herring. "We'd be happy to help you."

When the attorney general asked if the Eastern Shore's border with Maryland and being surrounded by water created unique public safety challenges, he received a series of headshakes.

"We have an excellent working relationship with Wicomico and Worcester counties," Godwin said.

The Sheriff later added his department also works well the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, whose agency staff has quickly provided boats for Accomack and Northampton counties during past emergencies.

A strong rapport is what Herring is hoping to build with public safety stakeholders on Virginia's Eastern Shore.

"We're here to help you. We're here to be a resource for you," he said.

To learn more about the Virginia Office of the Attorney General, visitwww.oag.state.va.us.

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