ST. ALBANS — The impact of the heroin epidemic on local citizens and businesses was clear at meetings of St. Albans City Council and the St. Albans Town Selectboard Monday night.

Residents in both communities turned out to support the creation of a proposed street crimes unit by the St. Albans Police Dept. (SAPD) to address drug-related crime, including monitoring locations where drug deals are known to occur.

SAPD Chief Gary Taylor has proposed creating a three-person unit in fiscal year 2019 at a cost to the city and town of $110,500 each. However, both communities have agreed to contribute $35,400 by adjusting spending in their current budgets to create a two-person unit immediately.

City councilor Mike McCarthy, Ward 4, said he has heard from multiple constituents about the proposed street crimes unit since the Messenger first reported on the plan on Saturday. “I’ve never seen the kind of positive response to a proposal that would increase spending that I have seen to this one,” he said.

That positive response was on display at the town selectboard meeting, where both board members and the public responded positively to the proposal.

Speaking of the cost of creating the street crimes unit, selectboard member Sam Smith said, “This cost is small compared to what the drug problem is costing us.”

Fellow selectboard member Bill Nihan echoed Smith’s comments, asking, “What is the cost of not doing this?”

Frank Cioffi, a town resident, spoke at both meetings to express his support for the unit. “If you haven’t been affected by this in your family… I can tell you you’re lucky and it’s probably only a matter of time.”

“We lost our daughter and my nephew is permanently disabled,” Cioffi told the city council. “Something like this, you don’t see it unless you’re looking for it and you don’t see it until it’s too late.”

He has witnessed some of what is happening on St. Albans’ streets personally, Cioffi told the selectboard. “I could take you in my car, and I’m not a policeman, and show you things that would make your head spin,” he said.

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