DA seeks grant to combat heroin

August 02, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Franklin County District Attorney's Office is seeking federal help to contain the county's growing heroin problem.

In July, the office sent a solicitation to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance proposing a grant to cover salaries, benefits and training of two full-time police officers to be assigned to the Franklin County Drug Task Force, according to District Attorney John F. Nelson.

"As bad as the problem has become ... there's still a chance to nip this in the bud," Nelson said last week. The proposal asks for $48,100 for each officer, along with funding for vehicles and "specialized training in the area of heroin addiction."

The officers would be hired by local police departments, but assigned to investigate heroin trafficking in the county, he said.

Nelson said he's had discussions with municipal police departments in the county. If no municipality is willing to hire the officers, he said they could become detectives for his office.


Nelson said he also wants a closer relationship with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration office in Hagerstown. He said the county is under the jurisdiction of the DEA office in Harrisburg, Pa., but working with the Hagerstown agents would be more effective.

"Part of it is geographical" because Hagerstown is closer, he said.

One Chambersburg police officer and two state troopers work full time with the county task force, Nelson said. A few years ago there were three full-time municipal officers, but local funding has been inconsistent.

Franklin County Drug and Alcohol statistics show the problem has grown rapidly. There were no heroin addiction cases managed by the agency in the 1995-96 fiscal year and just two in 1996-97.

In 1997-98, Drug and Alcohol managed 34 heroin addiction cases. Nelson said that doesn't include people with private medical insurance who may have sought help.

The proposal also noted that two men died this year of heroin overdoses.

When he was sentenced in May to at least 91/2 years in prison in the robbery of five banks, Jason Tucker Brown of Waynesboro, Pa., said he committed the crimes to pay for his heroin habit. That case was cited in Nelson's proposal.

"Waynesboro and Chambersburg have had quite a bit a heroin showing up, but it's available throughout the county," Nelson said. He said DEA information indicates much of it comes from Philadelphia.

"This isn't a matter of one or two or three people going to Philadelphia and bringing back large amounts of heroin," Nelson said. He believes many users make the trip to buy drugs for themselves and sell some on the side to support their habits.

He criticized one state newspaper for publishing an article that "essentially gave directions to the area in Philadelphia where you could easily purchase heroin." He said the article included how much it cost and the price at which it could be resold.

"It was like a AAA guide to the heroin," Nelson said.

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