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United States: 'Undercover' war waged in 2002

Pubdate: Sun Dec 22 13:48:57 2002
Source: Courier-Tribune, The (NC)
Copyright: 2002, Stephens Media Group
Webpage: [translate]
Newshawk: Bot :-]

[ topical analysis ]    propaganda analysis
'Undercover' war waged in 2002, Sunday, December 22, 2002'Undercover' war waged in 2002Drug Task Force update: Fight hits street levelBy Kerry Kesler

Staff Writer, The Courier-Tribune

ASHEBORO - Even with a drug treatment court now in place and a drug-sniffing dog on duty, members of the Asheboro Drug Task Force are not resting on their laurels.

The fight to keep drugs off our streets continues - and there's still a need for people to get involved.

"Drug money is such a lure," Gary Mason, Asheboro Police Department chief, said in a Thursday interview.

"Dependency on drugs ruins people's lives. It ruins their family's assets. It leads to theft, robbery, and prostitution. It's is creating a nightmare situation in all our communities."

It has been nearly two years since Mason called concerned citizens to a "Drug Summit" meeting where he pleaded for community involvement in anti-drug efforts.

Mason, head of the Asheboro Drug Task Force, said 2002 was a critical year in the effort to remove drugs from our streets.

The Drug Task Force is comprised of people from all areas of the community. Local elected officials, business people, pastors and concerned citizens meet monthly to address the problems that drug abuse brings.

Task force member Paul Trollinger said Thursday that he was encouraged by the effort law enforcement put out this year - on the city streets.

"Sometimes, people think not much is being done in their neighborhood to reduce the amount of drugs," Trollinger said. "But, Gary (Mason) keeps us informed about what is happening in the community as far as different neighborhoods are concerned. And there is always some undercover work going on."

Drug purchases and arrests by undercover officers were made 64 times in Asheboro as of Dec. 18. Mason said he depends on information from people in the community in order to know where to send undercover officers.

Along with drug buys, Asheboro vice and narcotics and street crime officers had served 18 search warrants, conducted five consent searches and made 24 on-the-spot apprehensions through mid-December.

The majority of the drug activity involved crack cocaine, the statistics showed.

"People get frustrated, I know," Mason said. "They call and expect us to come out and arrest someone for selling drugs as soon as they call. But, the fact is, as soon as a marked patrol car rolls up, the dealers disappear. Drug dealers just won't sell to a uniformed officer. It takes time."

Mason said his officers have developed working relationships with other agencies including the Randolph County Sheriff's Office, The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agency, the Secret Service, the U.S. Social Security agency, as well as the N.C. Department of Alcohol Law Enforcement (A.L.E.) and N.C. Department of Revenue.

"We are working regularly with all of these professionals," Mason said. "The ideas on how to put this together all came from ideas given after the drug summit."

Mason said at least four properties in Asheboro were closed to drug sales with the aid of the nuisance abatement efforts of the A.L.E. this year, and more are on the way.

"We don't want to take someone's property away," Mason said. "We will inform a property owner that something illegal is happening and counsel them on how to handle the situation. The A.L.E. helps us gather information on illegal activities so we can show someone what the situation is. If they won't handle the problem, we threaten civil action. This is a time-consuming process. But we owe it to citizens of Asheboro to make the effort."

The Asheboro Police Department also received its first drug-sniffing dog this year, courtesy of the Citizens for a Drug Free Community, an organization that pre-dates the drug task force.

The dog is earning its keep, according to Mason.

That's something Paul Trollinger is glad to hear.

"Olin Lee is chairman of that organization," Trollinger said. "I'm on that committee, too. We paid about $3,000 for the dog. Gary (Mason) tells me the drug dog is doing a wonderful job, and he wants another one next year. This organization also led the way in purchasing equipment for the A.L.E.R.T. (Asheboro Law enforcement Emergency Response Team) team. This has been a community effort and we were glad to lead the pack on raising money for that."

Trollinger, a city council member, also had high praise for the newly-established Drug Treatment Court and its efforts to control drugs by helping the addicted users.

"I applaud Judge (William) Neely and his group. I think it is wonderful for our community to have people from the judicial system who are willing to stick their neck out and go beyond the call of duty to do something like that," Trollinger said. "Neely will be the first to tell you that everything has not been as successful as they would wish, but at least they're moving in the right direction. They are making progress, and they have not lost heart."

Task force member Carmen Liberatore, also a member of the treatment court committee, agrees.

"We took a big step this year by establishing a drug treatment court in our community. Nothing but good can come from that."

Mason, Trollinger and Liberatore agree that there is a need for people to come forward and help in the fight against drugs.

"Very few neighborhoods in the area have not been directly affected by drugs," Mason said. "We are far from stamping out the problem. We fight it every day. We are still getting a few calls from people about drug activity in their area. We encourage everyone to get involved and give us information on illegal activity. Take down everything you can about what you see and the people you see. Call law enforcement. We may not drive up in a marked car, but the information is collected and acted on."

"Get in touch with the police force," Trollinger said. "Or call me, or the mayor (David Jarrell) or call Olin Lee, or talk to your pastor. Several pastors are members of the task force."

"We need to be the eyes and ears of our law enforcement officers," Liberatore said. "I wish more people would get involved and not just leave this problem to police.

"Drug Treatment Court can use money, if someone wants to contribute. They're working under a matching funds grant. People involved in drug court need help finding jobs. If one business would take on the responsibility of helping one person, the job would get done."

Click here for The Courier-Tribune News Archive

Copyright 2002, Stephens Media Group

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