Law enforcement combats drug problem with varying tactics

Law enforcement combats drug problem with varying tactics
Maryland State Police trooper Joseph Dehoff patrols Md. 140 in Reese Wednesday. State police use aggressive traffic enforcement as a tool to combat drug violations. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

Last month, detectives from the Carroll County Drug Task Force made a significant drug bust in a Westminster home.
Seized from a residence in the 100 block of Marion Drive was 125.8 grams of cocaine, 7.1 grams of heroin, 82 grams of marijuana and more than $43,000 in cash.
Investigators believe the two charged in connection with the drugs were trafficking them from the west side of Baltimore, according to charging documents in the case, in which detectives provided their account to support the charges against the suspects.
Members of the county's Drug Task Force teamed with officers from the Baltimore City Police Department's Major Case Squad in serving the search and seizure warrant on the home.
Both defendants are facing charges related to the bust and the outcomes of their cases have yet to be adjudicated.
Many of the drugs in Carroll are being brought in from Baltimore, according to Det. Steven Rogers, a Westminster City detective assigned to the drug task force.
County users don't have just one dealer, Rogers said.
"They're to the point where these people are so opiate-dependent that they have a slew of people they can call," he said.
Joanne "JoJo" Tedder, who lives near Libertytown, said there is a revolving door of drug dealers in Baltimore.
"People get locked up daily down there, so you just go to the next block. That's all you do, drive to the next corner and ask 'Who's got the boy?'" Tedder said.
Tedder said she has bought heroin from someone as young as 8 years old.
"It's very easy," Tedder said. "You look for blue lights, you can find dope. That's what I did."
Tedder has been sober for more than 20 months, recovering from an almost eight-year heroin addiction.
Police are seeing half-grams of heroin being sold for as much as $75, and the farther in the county from Baltimore, the higher the price becomes, according to Rogers.
Because the drug trade in Baltimore is dangerous, drugs being purchased for $10 in Baltimore can be brought to Westminster and sold for $40, Tedder said.
"They're taking the risk and you pay for that, and you really don't care," she said. "If you need it and we're dope sick and we're going to puke before we get to Baltimore, we'll get it from Westminster."
The drug task force, which was put together in 1990 to combat the drug use in the county, is composed of members of the Maryland State Police, Westminster Police Department and Carroll County Sheriff's Office.
The group's investigations, tactics and work are kept confidential, though they are not the only officials battling the county's drug problem.
Troopers at the Maryland State Police Westminster barrack are combating drug use in the county through aggressive traffic enforcement, said barrack commander Lt. Patrick McCrory.
Strategic patrols are routinely stationed along Md. 140 near the county line.
"The more cars you stop, the more opportunity you have to interdict criminal activity," McCrory said.
On Dec. 18, Trooper Joseph Dehoff was out on an aggressive traffic enforcement patrol.
Within an hour, Dehoff had pulled over four cars for reasons including the state's new Move Over law, speeding, a missing front license plate and talking on a cellphone.
While none of these traffic stops turned into a drug bust, troopers are finding routine stops can end up in a drug bust.
"It all starts with a traffic stop," Dehoff said.
An officer needs to establish probable cause or a reasonable articulable suspicion to search the vehicle for drugs. These indicators can include the smell of marijuana, the observation of drug paraphernalia or the way the driver or passengers are acting, Dehoff said.
Troopers are finding more drug users than distributors during these traffic stops, McCrory said.
People are either driving back into the county or just driving around in general when the troopers pull them over, McCrory said.
"Because how else are you transporting them in?" McCrory said. "You're not doing it on bicycles, you're not flying it by plane; you're driving it in, in a vehicle."
The Carroll County Sheriff's Office has recently implemented several initiatives aimed at combating the drug problem.
In November the department added a third drug detection K-9 team. A Neighborhood Enforcement Team was also created, which specializes in street-level nuisance issues and drug and property crimes in identified crime "hot spots."
And last summer, the office teamed with the Carroll County Public School system, the Maryland State Police and the county's municipal police agencies to create the School Resource Officer Partnership, which goes into local classrooms to teach students about local issues including substance abuse, according to Kasten.
Westminster Police Chief Jeff Spaulding was formerly the commander of the narcotics division with the Howard County Police Department. In Howard, they would typically have distribution cases, where dealers were keeping their drugs in Howard County but selling them in Baltimore.
"That's not the experience [in Carroll]," Spaulding said. "We have a number of people in the county, young and old, who are addicted to heroin."
The Westminster Police Department has officers assigned to narcotics investigations and enforcement. They investigate drug violations of all kinds, which typically arise from citizen complaints of drug activity in the community.
The department is aware of the drug problem in the county and it's a continuous battle, Spaulding said.