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Town sets up tip line to battle drugs

June 14, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

HANCOCK - One of the things Hancock Police Chief T.J. Buskirk wanted to do when he took his post in May 2006 was to set up a drug and crime tip line so citizens could feel comfortable calling about criminal activity in their neighborhoods.

That tip line is up and running now, 24 hours a day, and both Buskirk and Hancock Town Manager David Smith said they are pleased with the response.

"The caller has more anonymity with this system," Smith said. "No records are kept and there's no way to trace a call."

Buskirk's goal is to rid Hancock of the drug problem he describes as moderate but on the rise.

Smith and Buskirk both said they are happy when callers give their names and telephone numbers but that doing so isn't a requirement.

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"For all intents and purposes, it is a mailbox," Smith said.

Fresh from a quarterly meeting at the Washington County Health Department, Buskirk said his department receives health department money for enforcement of the underage drinking, tobacco cessation, drunken driving and the Smooth Operator programs.

"It funds overtime for these and it is definitely having a big impact," Buskirk said.

In addition to Buskirk and his K-9 Rambo, the Hancock Police Department includes Officers Shawn Tasker, Scott Wolfe and Dan Seaman.

"We are a small department so we can't designate one officer for drugs so we all do it."

When Buskirk checks the drug tip line, he gets the information and gives it to his officers for the appropriate followup.

While the recording mentions an officer who is no longer with the department, the number is still good, Buskirk said.

The tip line started off early this year, and has paid off.

"Some of the calls have resulted in the advancement of a case," Buskirk said.

He stressed that regular police emergency calls or things that are happening at that moment should still be called in to 911, which will in turn notify the Hancock Police through official channels.

"We treat every call as important," Buskirk said, urging residents to make use of this resource to keep their town safer.

Another innovation that Buskirk hopes to start soon is a program to check on elderly residents, especially now that the hot weather has arrived.

Citing an incident in which an older person was in need of help and didn't get it immediately, Buskirk said he doesn't want to see that happen again.

"Last August we had a lady who had a stroke and the neighbors called because they hadn't seen her," he said. "We then called the family - she made it but she had been there for three days."

Buskirk said he wants to reach out to seniors, either by phone call or visit. He also wants to gather a list of emergency contacts.

· More information on either program can be obtained by calling 301-678-5633.

· The tip line number is 301-331-0177.

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