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Task force seizures on pace with 2005

September 29, 2006|by DON AINES

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Marijuana, crack cocaine and cocaine have accounted for about two-thirds of the drugs seized this year in investigations spearheaded by the Franklin County Drug Task Force.

Eighty-five arrests have been made in task force investigations with more than $140,000 in drugs seized in 2006, according to figures supplied to local government officials Thursday morning at the Antrim House Restaurant.

District Attorney John F. Nelson and a detective from the task force met with about 40 county, municipal and police officials to update them on task force efforts. The task force is partially funded by the county and municipalities, Assistant District Attorney Matt Fogal said.

The task force also has seized seven vehicles, a dozen firearms and $3,000 in cash. Nelson said the rate of seizures is about on pace to match 2005.

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Marijuana, including 56 live plants and about 29 pounds of processed marijuana, accounted for $120,700 of the estimated street value of drugs seized, according to task force figures. Crack and powder cocaine accounted for another $17,000 and 50 packets of heroin worth $2,500 were confiscated.

The high retail price for crack cocaine is bringing in dealers from big cities, primarily New York City, said the detective, whom Nelson asked not be identified.

"The crack they're selling down here for $100 is worth $20 in New York," said the detective, one of three employed by the task force.

Although there have been a number of heroin overdose deaths in recent years, Nelson said, "we never really found anyone in the county who was a major dealer."

"They don't last long because of the attention they draw," the detective said. He spoke of one case a few years ago in which a mother and son sold heroin from their house, sometimes lowering it to users from a second-floor window with a bucket on a rope.

Nelson said local heroin dealers are often addicts who buy the drug in Baltimore, selling some here to pay for their habit.

Calls to the task force about methamphetamine are up, but the detective said gauging drug use is difficult.

"We have no way of knowing who uses drugs until they're arrested," he said. "It's hard to put a number on it."

Quincy Township Supervisor Kerry Bumbaugh said a number of people have come to him saying they are aware of drug users and want to know if the task force is investigating.

"Seventy-five percent of prosecutions for possession are by happenstance," Nelson said, usually the result of a traffic stop or other contact with police. Prosecuting users, he said, rarely results in a jail sentence.

Suspicious activity at a house usually is not enough evidence to make an arrest, the detective said. It often requires informants, often drug users who agree to cooperate with police.

"Without having people to lead us to dealers, it's a lot harder to investigate," he said.

The investigators also have to be young enough to fit in on undercover assignments, the detective said. He told local officials that one informant had to tell a dealer the detective was "a friend of his father's."

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