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West Siders asked about quality of life

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston police want to collect opinions from people who live and work on the West Side to learn more about the quality of life in those neighborhoods.Residents, business owners and employees are encouraged to take part in an anonymous online survey sponsored by the State Division of Justice and Community Services.The survey is part of the Drug Market Intervention initiative, a partnership between city police and federal prosecutors, aimed at dismantling open-air illegal drug markets on Charleston's West Side.Federal prosecutors target violent drug offenders while city police target small time offenders to offer them second chances. Police offer job training or drug rehabilitation opportunities instead of jail time.This survey would provide police and federal authorities a snapshot of the initiative's initial successes and areas for improvement, Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster said.The survey asks residents which West Side streets they spend most of their time at and whether they feel safe there. The survey then asks which crimes, including shootings, break-ins and prostitution, occur the most where they live and which drugs are the most prevalent.The survey also asks about peoples' experiences on the West Side and whom they hold accountable for blighted areas and abandoned structures. Survey takers can give their opinions on their neighbors, local businesses, Charleston police and members of city council.The survey also wants to know how likely the survey taker would be to volunteer, donate money or learn a new skill to better the West Side.
"What's important is how these residents feel about [the initiative]," Webster said. "After we have made some changes, do they feel better, feel the same or feel worse about the police and the community?"The initiative began in High Point, N.C. and has expanded to several cities around the country. Charleston joined the initiative last year, the second West Virginia city to do so. Huntington had joined the initiative in 2010 and targeted the city's Fairfield neighborhood. The U.S. Department of Justice gave the Charleston Police Department a $475,698 grant for the Drug Market Intervention initiative in August.The survey is available online at Travis Crum at or 304-348-5163.    
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