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Regional DEA Task Force formed

May 29, 1998|By LISA GRAYBEAL

It's more powerful, better organized and operates under a different name than its predecessor, but the goal of a new drug task force recently formed in Washington County is the same.

Formerly known as the Washington County Narcotics Task Force, officials are hoping the new Regional DEA Task Force will pack more punch in fighting the county's drug market since it's funded in part by federal money under the Department of Justice's Drug Enforcement Administration.

The makeup of the new task force won't be much different from that of the cooperative team the county established in 1987.

The Regional DEA Task Force will be made up of two DEA special agents, five police officers from Hagerstown City Police, four Washington County Sheriff's deputies and two Maryland State Police officers, as well as an assistant state's attorney and two secretaries.

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Of that group, four of the city police officers, three sheriff's deputies and one Maryland State Police officer will be deputized as task force officers of the DEA, giving them federal authority to pursue drug cases over state lines, said Anthony Cammarato, assistant special agent in charge of the DEA district office in Baltimore.

"It allows us to work more freely from our department to track cases in other states," said Hagerstown City Police Chief Dale J. Jones.

The federal government also will pick up the tab for overtime accrued by the eight deputized federal agents up to $8,400 per agent, per year, Jones said.

The regular salaries of the task force members will be paid by each department.

Members of the new task force also will be working from one office in Hagerstown rather than from separate locations.

The federal government will pay for the newly expanded office space, office supplies, travel funds, funds for the purchase of evidence and information, investigative equipment, training and other support items.

"It gives the locals additional resources they need to get the job accomplished," Cammarato said.

Going from two locally based federal agents to a total of 10 puts pressure on the local drug market by allowing agents to follow up drug cases and investigate more long-term and in-depth cases, said Dave Miller, special DEA agent assigned to the Hagerstown office.

It also means freeing up the local court system since more federal manpower means being able to use the federal court system more often to prosecute cases, Miller said.

A two-person DEA satellite office was established in Hagerstown in 1991 and in other small cities throughout the nation in response to growing drug markets that evolved and expanded from the big cities, Miller said.

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