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Franklin Co. takes steps to battle heroin

February 27, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - On Feb. 12, Pennsylvania State Police found a 17-year-old Chambersburg-area boy incoherent and wandering shirtless along Frank Road.

Police said he was under the influence of heroin and was released to the custody of a parent. Less than a week later, he was again in custody when police stopped him and two young adults as they returned from an alleged trip to buy heroin in Philadelphia, according to Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom.

"That stuff is going on every day, many times a day," District Attorney John F. Nelson told the Board of County Commissioners Thursday about the heroin pipeline between Philadelphia and the county.

The growing heroin problem prompted Nelson last fall to propose raising money from local governments and hiring two detectives to investigate heroin and other drug crimes. Now the Board of County Commissioners has given Nelson permission to fill the first of those positions.

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Nelson will soon submit an application for a $50,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to investigate heroin activity. The money would be combined with $30,000 each from the county and municipal governments and $48,400 from the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General.

Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, "personally indicated to me he will hand-carry the application to Harrisburg."

The proposal revamps the Franklin County Drug Task Force and its sources of funding. Krom said the task force now has one full-time police officer on loan from the Chambersburg Police Department. Instead of a municipal officer, the two detectives will be employed by the county.

In the past the county gave the task force $15,000 a year, which was combined with state grants and donations from municipalities. Nelson said some townships and boroughs have been reluctant to make contributions to fight drug trafficking, believing it is "a Chambersburg problem."

The heroin initiative, however, received contributions from 21 of the 22 municipalities and in some cases donations exceeded the amount requested. Based on population, Greene Township was asked to contribute $2,900, but it gave $10,000, Krom said.

Nelson said heroin appears more widespread geographically than crack cocaine, which police and the task force have been "battling with questionable success as far as impacting the problem."

Nelson said he wants the task force to prevent heroin dealers from setting up shop in the county as cocaine dealers have done.

"People are making trips to Philadelphia two or three times a week" to buy heroin that is cheap and relatively pure, Nelson said. Heroin users buy the drug for themselves and sell it on the side to support their habits, but there doesn't appear to be a major dealer in the county, he said.

In 1995-96 no one sought treatment for heroin addiction through the county's Drug and Alcohol program, according to Krom. The number was three the following year, but rose to 49 in 1997-98 and 51 in 1998-99.

Nelson said last fall those numbers do not include people who may have sought treatment through private programs.

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