NELSONVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — A knock on the door, a kind conversation, and the offer of a free trip to rehab is the latest initiative by Nelsonville Police Department.

“Probably 85 to 90 per cent of the crimes that are committed within the City of Nelsonville is some way affiliated with drugs,” explained Chief of Police Scott Fitch. “Either the person committing the offence is under the influence of drugs, or they are committing a crime to facilitate them having the funds with theft offences, things like that, or the violent offences that we have in the city.

“Normally people are involved with drugs — either disputes over drugs, or the fact that they are under the influence.”

In the past year that Officer Chris Jones has been working Nelsonville with his K9 partner Atilla, they’ve encountered drug addicts and repeat offenders. This led to the idea that instead of taking those people to the South Eastern Ohio Regional jail, where there is limited bed space, they would work on asking people who are addicted to drugs if they would like to go to a rehabilitation facility.

“We are giving individuals an alternative to charges,” explained Officer Jones, “We are trying to get them help, something Nelsonville hasn’t seen. The police department is offering that assistance.”

Chief Fitch says it’s a proactive approach. “I think July 2 was the first day we actually put it into action. So far we’ve had 26 people inquire about the program and has either stopped in or wanted additional information, so far we’ve had 11 that have gone to the treatment facility.

Help is as simple as calling the police department. The dispatcher will pass the message along to the officers, and they will begin the process to find bed space.

Chief Fitch says this gives people who have drug offences another option — one that doesn’t require handcuffs. The community has stepped up by volunteering to take people to rehab, and businesses and citizens have donated clothing, toiletries, personal items and snacks.

“It wouldn’t take a lot of success to have an impact on the community,” Chief Fitch said. “Even if they get a couple weeks of staying clean it gets them one step closer to being drug free in the future.”

To contact Nelsonville Police Department, call (740) 753-1922.