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Southern Indiana police chief says his department needs help

AUSTIN, Ind. (AP) – A police chief in a southern Indiana town that has been the center of the worst HIV outbreak in state history says the area has received state support to help those who are infected but his department needs assistance dealing with the pervasive drug problem that comes with it.

Austin resident Dottie Titus said the city is overrun with drug addicts and prostitution.

“They’re very, very brazen,” Titus said. “Nothing stops them.”

Health officials say the HIV outbreak has been largely driven by needle-sharing among people injecting a liquefied form of the painkiller Opana.

Spicer told WDRB-TV his department is outnumbered.

For example, Austin, which is about 35 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky, has six officers for a city with about 4,300 residents while nearby Scottsburg with about 6,750 residents has 13 officers. Yet Spicer says data shows both departments have gotten almost the same number of calls from dispatch so far this year.

Austin has received 4,395 calls while Scottsburg has gotten 4,525. The two Scott County cities are those affected by the HIV outbreak that the State Department of Health said recently had reached 181 cases. Spicer says federal statistics show that Austin should have about 12 officers. He said he doesn’t have the staff to do the job.

“If I go down the road right now and try to watch a house we know is dealing drugs just to see who’s coming and going, we’ll have five calls come across the radio within 15 to 20 minutes. I can’t stay put,” Spicer said.

Spicer said he recently brought the problem to the attention of Gov. Mike Pence.

“Maybe he has someone on his staff that can help us find the grants or maybe there are some grants out there that we’re not aware of that they could steer us to,” Spicer said.

Until funding for more officers can be found, Spicer is asking for residents to keep calling in tips.