Starting tomorrow, each of the four county police districts will have its own three-member narcotics squad to handle local undercover operations.

The squads -- dubbed Tactical Narcotics Teams -- are being initiated by acting county police Chief Robert Russell. "The teams will be able to respond to the community better and work with the uniformed officers," he said.

The teams, each supervised by a sergeant, will be responsible foridentifying drug traffic on the streets and setting up operations that target low-level buying and selling.

Staffing the new teams wasaccomplished through reassignment and transfers. The four sergeants are already stationed in the districts. Five of the officers came from the central narcotics unit. Three are former patrol officers.

Russell also transferred other narcotics officers from the central unitto other divisions, leaving about 22 officers -- including sergeantsand lieutenants -- to work on the larger drug busts. The 22 officersdo not include the six officers in the prescription and seizure units.

While drug arrests dropped from 1,496 in 1989 to 1,311 in 1990,police spokesman Officer V. Richard Molloy said the move could help boost the figures. "They definitely won't get a large quantity of drugs, but they will get a lot of arrests."

This is the second time in recent years the department has taken steps to decentralize the narcotics unit.

In 1987, then-chief George Wellham created "Team Police" units for each district; eight-member teams, two assigned to handle street-level traffic.

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