New grant funds county heroin co­or­di­na­tor

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JA­COB OWENS

jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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.

AN­NAPO­LIS

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.

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

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.

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