I RECENTLY HAD the opportunity to go on a ride-along with the Manchester Police Department to gain first-hand insight into what our men and women in blue face each and every day.

As a mother raising two young boys in our city, to say it was an eye-opening experience is an understatement.

I spent an evening accompanying an incredibly professional and patient officer who reaffirmed to me the commitment that so many of these men and women have in making Manchester a safer place to live and raise a family.

What I witnessed over those several hours changed my perspective as a citizen and taxpayer regarding the job that I thought the police were doing, versus the reality of what they are faced with day in and day out.

As one would expect, our police department is inundated with many types of calls and emergency requests.

I witnessed an opioid overdose on Elm Street in front of a busy restaurant full of families.

We came across other individuals who were having very disturbing reactions to drugs such as “spice” and “meth.”

While our first responders are doing everything within their power to help the afflicted, the reality is that Manchester has lost more lives to opioids this year than last.

We have to fight to find real solutions to the awful drug problem impacting the Queen City because the status quo is not working.

The drug epidemic is tragic, but in addition to the heartbreak, it is overwhelming our first responders and dominating a large amount of our city’s resources as we fight to combat it.

While problems related to drugs consumed much of our night, it was not the only issue we saw.

We were called to witness painful situations concerning domestic violence and dangerous interactions between neighbors.

With lights and sirens blaring, one of the most shocking incidents was a call related to a drive-by shooting that transpired in one of our neighborhoods with homes and families only feet away.

Police and law enforcement leaders consistently tell me that the increases in homicides and shootings in Manchester are in large part a result of drug and gang violence.

Many citizens whom I have spoken with across our city are rightfully afraid to be outside in their own neighborhoods.

That is not the image we want people to have of Manchester, but the reality is that families have every right to be scared, frustrated, and confused.

Residents read headline after headline about murders, shootings, and dangerous crimes.

Downtown businesses are suffering under the weight of the homeless situation, and citizens know these problems will eventually spill out beyond Elm Street.

They experience issues in their neighborhoods and see endless amounts of graffiti covering our overpasses and bridges as a result of gangs marking their territories.

All of this is unacceptable, and I share in Manchester families’ concerns.

After a long night, I took off my bulletproof vest and walked away from the police car telling myself that this has to change.

We cannot allow what I witnessed just in that one evening to become “the new normal” in Manchester.

The first step in finding solutions to crime in the Queen City is to acknowledge that there is a serious problem.

Our current mayor, Joyce Craig, is either unwilling or unable to do so. Sticking one’s head in the sand and ignoring that crime is spiking or that people are dying in our streets as gangs gain strength is dangerous.

Making public statements simply to try to quell citizens’ justified fears is not leadership.

Manchester residents deserve to hear from a bold and concerned mayor who will fight for all Manchester families and return the city to one we can be proud of.

It is time to work together towards real and lasting solutions so that we can have a strong and vibrant city.

If elected, I will develop a renewed focus on community-based policing.

We will work with our law enforcement, community leaders, and our representatives in Concord to add more beat officers and build stronger bonds in our city’s neighborhoods.

Addressing the public safety issues surrounding the opioid epidemic, working with multiple departments and state agencies to remove gang-related graffiti in a timely manner and prioritizing our budgets so that we can address the areas our law enforcement recognizes as currently deficient is a pledge I make to Manchester voters.

As a proven community leader, I will create an environment where we, as a city, can work together to make Manchester attractive to new businesses, new families and visitors, while making our current citizens proud to say that they feel safe living in the Queen City. To accept anything less should be unacceptable to any Manchester resident.

Victoria Sullivan, a candidate for mayor of Manchester, is a former assistant majority leader in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and a resident of Manchester’s Ward 9.