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Law lets police cite drivers in drug areas

March 07, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Charles Town City Council Monday night passed an ordinance that allows police to cite motorists for repeatedly driving through areas in which drugs are known to be sold.

Officers often see people they suspect are driving through to buy or sell drugs, but they have been powerless to do anything about it, Police Chief Mike Aldridge said.

Only if motorists were spotted buying drugs or police could find witnesses could a stop be made, he said.

Under the new law passed by council, officers can cite motorists with a misdemeanor for repeatedly passing through such areas, Aldridge said.

"If we find (drugs), that's something else," Aldridge said.

Under the law, conviction on a first offense would carry a $500 fine, a second offense would be punishable by a $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail and a third-offense conviction would carry a $1,000 fine and 60 days in jail, Aldridge said.

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The law also allows officers to act as drug dealers and sell fake crack cocaine to catch buyers, he said.

Although crack cocaine has posed problems in Charles Town over the years, it has been "quieter than a mouse" recently, Aldridge said. But the police department needs to be more vigilant because warmer temperatures tend to bring out more dealers, he said.

Cpl. Chuck Ellis of the Martinsburg Police Department said he doesn't know of any other police departments in the area that have a law like the new one in Charles Town. It is similar to prohibiting teenagers from repeatedly driving up and down certain streets, or "cruising," Ellis said.

"It sounds like they just modified it to take in their drug areas," Ellis sad.

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