A crowd of about 150 people lined the sidewalks and stood in the middle of Second Street in Jeannette on Sunday, as more than half a dozen speakers urged them to “take back” their city.
“I think the good people (of Jeannette) want to make a change,” said Chad Fetty, who organized the “We Are One … A Rally For Peace.”
Fetty said he wanted residents to focus on and support the positive things happening in Jeannette, including new businesses opening in the city.
A 10-year resident, Fetty, lead singer of East Coast Turnaround, is raising his family in Jeannette.
“Just like I love music, I love this city,” he said.
Among those addressing a growing drug and crime problem was Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held.
Held urged residents to “be the eyes and ears,” to report crimes and be willing to serve as witnesses as criminal cases proceed through the court system.
Tim Phillips, director of community prevention for Westmoreland Community Action, said Pennsylvania spends $6 million a day to run its correctional facilities.
“To me, that sounds as if we are in the business of corrections. (Drug addiction) is a treatable disease. There is a captive audience in the county prison. Let’s stop the cycle,” Phillips said.
“Treatment is available to all. We have a vibrant recovery community here,” he said.
Westmoreland County recently formed a drug task force to address the epidemic, he said.
Nick Carrozza, 24, of Irwin told the crowd he began using drugs at 12, and by 16 was selling narcotics to support his habit.
Carrozza was arrested and served an 18-month prison term. He received no treatment in the county prison, he said, and was released owing thousands in court costs and fines.
“I was sent back to the same environment. I couldn’t get a job. I was turned down for student loans because of my felony convictions. I started selling drugs again. I started using again,” he said.
After making the decision to get clean, Carrozza entered a rehabilitation program and soon will mark one year of being free of drugs and alcohol, he said.
The stigma of addiction has to be broken, and more treatment availability could make a difference, he said.
Also speaking Sunday was Carmen Capozzi, whose son Sage Capozzi, 20, died of a drug overdose in 2012.
Capozzi, who founded “Sage’s Army” to help those struggling with drug addiction and their loved ones, said awareness, compassion and action can combat fear, complacency, material living, stigma and shame.
“Today is about planting the seed of change,” he said. “Change won’t happen unless you get involved. I’ve been doing this a year and nine months, and I ain’t stopping. You look at them little kids. If we don’t do something, they don’t stand a chance. Drug dealers are like pedophiles. The only difference is, drug dealers don’t care how old you are.”
Capozzi invited those attending to join him at county Drug and Alcohol Commission meetings.
“Please don’t go home today and get in your comfort zone,” he said.
Resident Kathy Seice said she “would really like to see Jeannette turn around.
“We need to get jobs in here. … We need to get more cops in here. We need to rip down a lot of these abandoned buildings; then there would be fewer places for (dealers) to hang out,”
Newly elected Mayor Richard Jacobelli said the problems Jeannette faces are not unique.
He said he plans to make the police force more visible on the streets.
Jacobelli said he does not see a reduction in the 12-man force. With attrition, he said, the city may be able to increase the size of the department.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or [email protected].