New grant funds county heroin coordinator
— Gov. Larry Hogan announced $3 million in grants Monday to fight the state’s heroin epidemic, including more than $250,000 that will aid Cecil County law enforcement to track and arrest heroin dealers.
Chief among Hogan’s appropriations is nearly $1 million to hire 18 heroin coordinators in regions across the state — including in Cecil County — to monitor heroin arrests, index interagency information and supply intel to investigators.
That spending supports one of the goals identified by the governor’s Heroin & Opioid Emergency Task Force to designate the Baltimore-Washington High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) as the central repository for all Maryland drug intelligence and select coordinators to track the info.
Meanwhile, more than $2 million will be supplied to nine jurisdictions through the annual Safe Streets Initiative, an offender-based program that tracks down and arrests the most serious, violent and repeat offenders while connecting those offenders struggling with substance abuse to drug treatment, health care, education and other services.
“Throughout Maryland, from our smallest town to our biggest city, heroin is destroying lives,” Hogan said in a prepared statement. “A coordinated law enforcement and treatment response is essential to our administration’s ability to help fight this epidemic and provide our citizens with the lifesaving support they need. These heroin coordinators will work to ensure that every drug seizure, arrest, and investigation is documented and uploaded into extensive shared databases to give us a clear picture of the paths these deadly drugs take to get into our communities. And our peer recovery specialists will work to ensure offenders with addictions get the treatment and support they need to get on the road to recovery.”
On Tuesday, Cecil County Sheriff Scott Adams said he was thrilled to benefit from this year’s grant cycle. He noted that Safe Streets funding, which this year totals $203,000, applies to the Maryland State Police, Cecil County Sheriff’s Office and the Elkton Police Department. This year, even more will be available as previous rounds funded the sheriff’s office’s crime analyst position, which has since been budgeted for by the county.
“I wanted that position to be covered by the county because when it was a year-toyear, grant-funded position it could go away at any time,” he said, noting the office’s last crime analyst recently left to take a job at the FBI and its newly secure funding has lead to a wealth of strong replacement candidates.
Safe Streets funding primarily pays for overtime for law enforcement officers to investigate leads into suspected drug dealing and search for some of the county’s most wanted suspects, Adams said.
“That overtime gift allows us to do targeted enforcement, where we can address crime hotspots and direct resources to the right place, hopefully making a streetlevel difference,” he said.
Meanwhile, the heroin coordinator would be hired and outfitted to work out of the region’s HIDTA office for nearly $60,000.
“That position will work right out of the county’s HIDTA task force to make sure phone downloads are done after arrests and all info is entered into the HIDTA database,” he said. “The problem is that every agency doesn’t use the same system, so the plan is to follow all intel through a centralized source – the HIDTA database.”
Adams said his investigators will be able to see intel by other agencies on suspects, which will improve interagency communication and could help unravel larger drug trafficking operations.
Info on fatal overdoses will also be tracked and Adams said that he hopes to begin developing homicide cases against dealers who sell heroin to someone who ultimately fatally overdoses.
“If we can tie that back to a sale, then we can build a homicide case,” he said.
New state grant funding will pay for a coordinator to track heroin busts and sales in the county to aid investigators’ efforts to dismantle illegal drug sales.