Eye-catching billboards generate tips, start conversations
By Justin Wier
Billboards asking drug dealers to report their competition to the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force office have garnered national attention and flooded the local tip hotline.
“We found it to be comical, but it also gets people talking,” said Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene, whose office purchased the billboards.
He added that he borrowed the idea from a sheriff in West Virginia.
The calls, made to 330-333-1TIP, were half-joking and half-serious, the sheriff said.
The billboards became a meme online, posted with captions such as “Genius” and “We are reaching next levels of snitchery.”
Greene said the billboards appeared on Tosh.0, a Comedy Central television show with a host who provides commentary on viral videos.
The sheriff’s office also has pursued a more serious billboard campaign to underline the gravity of the opioid crisis.
One billboard at the intersection of Market Street and Western Reserve Road features a picture of a grave and reads: “Average life span: Male – 76. Female – 81. Heroin will change all that. Talk to your kids.”
Another at the intersection of state Route 170 and Calla Road shows a mother hugging her daughter and reads: “In 2017, Mahoning County had 104 drug related deaths. Talk to your kids.”
“We can’t arrest our way out of this,” Greene said of the opioid crisis.
It will require other approaches including treatment and education.
Greene hoped families driving past the billboards may be inspired to have a conversation about the greater issue.
“We’re trying to ... invest a little bit into the education part of it,” Greene said.