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Vigliotti: Battle against drug epidemic unending, but appreciate victories in the war

John Curran, famed lawyer and member of Ireland’s House of Commons, in July 1790 gave a speech in defense the elected mayor of Dublin when the mayor’s election was challenged by other officials. Curran argued that the mayor had been appropriately elected, and that the rights of voters were being undermined, stating “It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”

That extraordinary wisdom we know today in a very simplified form: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” We can never give up those things which we hold sacred, even if it means the watch is unending. This is certainly as true of liberty as it is of human life, and it is certainly relevant to Carroll County’s struggle against drugs and other crimes.

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We live in a time not unlike Curran’s, one so adequately described by Charles Dickens in “A Tale of Two Cities,” in which two realities seem to exist: one of light and one of dark. It is as true for Carroll as it is for Maryland and for America.

Critics and opponents of the war against drugs contend that anti-drug efforts have done little to nothing to reverse production, selling or addiction. They have argued that this means the effort has failed and that it is therefore one not worth fighting. After all, drugs are still being produced, sold and used; and people are still dying because of them.

But we know that giving up is not an option.

Evil does not rest and neither can we. Just because drugs and their dealers may never be completely defeated, does not mean we let go. The dealer contends by his practice of selling that human life has no true, intrinsic value; and that money is more important than human life itself. The producer and the dealer are, quite literally, waging a war against the soul of humanity. (Even those who use the idea of generating tax revenue as an excuse for drug legalization also devalue human life by equating it to income.) This is truly a time of life or death.

The anti-drug campaigner contends that human life does matter and matters above all. The refusal to give in is a profound demonstration of the importance of love, of human life, of our communities, and of our society and culture. We are nation that treasures love and life.

And progress is being made, despite what some say. My fellow columnist, Chris Tomlinson, wrote an excellent piece a few weeks ago about the drop in overdoses in Carroll. Between State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo, Sheriff Jim DeWees, our County Commissioners, municipal chiefs and a host of crucial addiction recovery organizations, programs, churches and citizens, Carroll is making progress. We should be proud of this, and it should encourage us in the ongoing fight.

As time and technology change, and as the tactics and schemes of dealers evolve, there is something to be learned here from the study of military history — from war. That is the importance of knowing the enemy, and having the intelligence to use effectively against him.

Under DeLeonardo’s capable leadership, Carroll County’s State’s Attorney’s office received a grant from the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention to participate in the Maryland Criminal Intelligence Network.

The gathering and sharing of information through MCIN, and the improved streamlining of coordination of local and county agencies in conjunction with the state’s attorney’s office, will allow the greatest effort to date to disrupt, cripple and shut down drug trafficking, as well as human trafficking and other crimes. It will also be a substantial addition to law enforcement, as local agencies will have better contextual and additional information for the individuals they pursue or encounter no matter the crime. And that extends beyond Carroll’s borders.

Each of Carroll’s municipalities deserve credit for having entered into the MCIN memorandum of understanding through DeLeonardo’s office. As DeLeonardo has explained to me, “The ability to dig deep on criminals operating in the county allows us to pull the weed out by the root, even if that root is in another county. And we are very lucky to have a governor that sees that benefit.”

He is right. Gov. Larry Hogan should be recognized for appreciating the importance of such proactive crimefighting techniques. All too often, the media’s focus is only on crime at the southern border. Make no mistake: While it is critical to secure the border, the challenge at home — in our communities — is also one that Hogan, and Marylanders, know must be met. MCIN will be an invaluable tool to that end.

Additionally, it is worth noting that Hogan has appointed DeLeonardo as Chair of the Governor’s Council on Gangs and Violent Criminal Networks, which will bring additional statewide resources to bear in Carroll and around Maryland as the struggle continues.

Anyone who assumes human life is anything less than sacred will never stop trying to find ways to profit from its end. The task for us is to find ways of countering that evil while reminding those who are struggling with addiction that their lives have meaning.

God did not give us life to waste it. God did not give us consciences to refuse to act in even what small ways we can. Sometimes a clear victory may not happen, may not be lasting, or may not even be seen. But that does not mean we should not be vigilant, as Curran once noted. Sometimes the fight is what counts. MCIN is a win, and on we go.

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