Sturdifen promises Task Force will work to makes streets safe
Special Agent Dale Sturdifen, new coordinator for the Southside Regional Drug and Gang Task Force wants to make the area safer by cleaning up the streets of Chase City and the other communities in the area. Speaking to the crowd who turned out for the special Chase City Community Meeting Against Violence on Tuesday night, Sturdifen praised the education and social services programs for the role they hope to play in encouraging people to avoid the drug and gang culture, but added that law enforcement will continue to work to make the streets safer.
During his remarks, Sturdifen told the crowd that gangs have been identified in the area and are not confined to any single community but are throughout the county.
“We’re between calm and chaos,” said Sturdifen. “We’re stuck in the middle and what do we do? We have to do our job.”
Sturdifen told the crowd that while he was still serving as a State Trooper, Chief J.A. Jordan had called him one morning in relation to a murder victim on Spanish Grove Road. Arriving, he said, they found a young man, face down, shot multiple times.
“It was drug, gang related,” said Sturdifen. “Did it stop? No. We have another shooting and we have another killing. What do we do? We just look around and go, man, I wish that wouldn’t happen. But if you stand up and do something, you’re the ones who can make the change.”
Sturdifen asked how many members of the audience had a FaceBook account that people can use to communicate directly with the agency.
“The Task Force just opened a page,” said Sturdifen. “You can look it up. You can like that page. We’re going to have direct contact with you and we’re going to put out information. When we get a bad batch of heroin or any other type of drugs come in, we’re going to put it on our page. On that page,” he added, “you can contact us directly because you’re the ones who see the guy selling on the street.”
Sturdifen told the audience that citizens doing nothing allows the problem to grow.
“The only reason that drug dealers can get away with selling dope in the community is because the community does nothing,” said Sturdifen. “They sit and they watch. Sometimes it’s their relative; I don’t want to send my son to jail. A guy told me one time, drugs sell themselves. And they do,” said Sturdifen. “The guys on the street, we call those guys the end users. Why? Because the cocaine wasn’t made in Virginia. The heroin wasn’t made in Virginia. It was shipped here and by the time it gets on the streets, the money has been made. And who is at risk? You know who they are. They’re the ones always getting locked up.”
For a long time, explained Sturdifen, “drug dealers had worked in the shadows and so the Task Force had also worked in the shadows.
“Then the dealers got bold and they did it up front while people sat by and did nothing. The Task Force in turn would work in the shadows and buy drugs through an informant and then we’d arrest them and send them away. They’d come back home and do it again,” said Sturdifen. “Some of them got smarter. They come back from jail and they’re talking, ‘I’m going to make a change. I’m going to do this for the community,’ and in the background, they’re still selling dope. You know who they are.”
Sturdifen said that citizens have to take a more active role in the community. As an example, he talked about young people cursing while adults turn away. “But at some point as a community, you need to speak up,” said Sturdifen.
“What the Drug and Gang Task Force is going to do for you,” said Sturdifen, “we’re going to be there for you. You’re going to see us on your streets in Chase City. We’re not going to be in the shadows anymore. We’re going to come to your houses and knock on your doors. If your relatives are related to gang activity, we’re coming,” said Sturdifen. “We’re coming because we owe it to you.”
“If we do nothing, it gets worse. We can’t act only because someone got shot. We have to be proactive. We’ve got gang activity in our middle schools and elementary schools. Why? Because their parents, cousins and relatives have been gang members,” said Sturdifen. “We have a documented gang in Chase City called T4L.”
Speaking after the meeting, Sturdifen said that the members deny that it’s a “gang” but simply family and friends getting together.
Sturdifen pointed out on Tuesday night that while it is not illegal to be a member of a gang, it is illegal to participate in gang activities.
Gang activity, said Sturdifen, is what we’re seeing now in the area.
“We have gangs in Chase City and in every part of this county. We have gangs and we need to talk about it because we’re going to knock on the door and do some face time,” he said.
Turning to the opioid epidemic and increase of use in heroin, Sturdifen said simply, “It takes your soul. It takes your soul and you’re in a life of recovery.”
Recovery, he said, was difficult because “in the blink of an eye, you can drift off and start all over again.”
“We have to do something,” said Sturdifen. “How many people smoke week and go, ‘oh, it’s just weed or it’s just beer?’ Well I can tell you a joint or alcohol has ruined a lot of people and when you confront them with it they deny it. We need leadership. We need people to stand up and be accountable when the time comes. You know, we talk about being hard. We’re going to be hard but were going to be fair. We’re going to be hard because if we’re not, we’re cheating you, we’re not doing our jobs.”
Sturdifen said that while he is a big fan of the other support services mentioned during the meeting, he knows that some people will not change.
“You know, I’m great with all these services we have but those services have been around since the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and they’re still going to be around but people make a choice. They’ve talked about blood in, blood out. They choose that and what happens when they choose it”
Sturdifen described going to a house and the young man he was to see said “I’m a Blood. I’m a Blood.” Sturdifen said he told the young man “You aren’t a Blood.” The young man continued to insist that he was indeed a Blood.
“We have to accept them for the path they choose and if they choose to go down that road we’ve got to have people to deal with them. The sheriff and every chief of police is in support of the Task Force and I encourage you to interact with us though social media, through Twitter and through FaceBook. But as the Task Force Coordinator,” said Sturdifen, “I owe it to each and every person in here. We need to support you and do everything we can. Are we going to stop drugs? As long as we have a user we will never stop drugs. As I said before we’re between calm and chaos but I will promise you this, in the Task Force, we will address each and every gang issue. We can not afford as a community for the gangs to grow and operate unchecked. Nor can we afford for the heroin epidemic to continue.”
Sturdifen added that heroin, along with cocaine and marijuana were now being laced with fentanyl, an opioid much more powerful than heroin.
“One shot, you can die,” said Sturdifen. “But just because you’re not using heroin doesn’t mean you’re okay because the fentanyl coming in from china is being put in heroin, it’s being put in cocaine and it’s also being put with marijuana. I know for a fact that within the last couple of weeks we’ve had people smoking weed, called Loud and they went to the hospital, probably because it was laced,” said Sturdifen.
Concluding, Sturdifen told the people that the Task Force will continue to do it’s job.
“On behalf of the gang and drug task force, my commitment to you is that we’re going to do our part. I hope the services groups do their part and hopefully, we can make our streets a little safer.”
For more coverage on the Chase City Anti-Violence Community Meeting, please see Wednesday’s edition of The News-Progress.