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Drug force seeks secure radios Sheriff's office lacks the money


With the proliferation of cheap police scanners in Carroll County, law enforcement officers -- especially those working undercover drug operations -- are seeking more than $10,000 for scrambler-type police radios to prevent drug dealers from being alerted prior to raids.

Members of the Carroll County Drug Task Force asked the county commissioners yesterday for the money to purchase high-technology radios for two deputy sheriffs who are on the task force.

State troopers and Westminster city police already use the same radios that the deputies want, but the commissioners were told that the Sheriff's Department has no money to pay for them.

One task force member told the commissioners that, during a recent drug raid in Westminster, task force officers began communicating with their headquarters and heard their own voices coming over a scanner tuned to their frequency in a suspected drug dealer's house.

The commissioners did not comment on the money request.

State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman, who also spoke to the commissioners yesterday, told them that "rumors" of the task force having a $50,000 surplus in a savings account are false. He said the task force's annual budget is about $15,000.

The task force is composed of members of the state's attorney's office, state police troopers, a Westminster city police officer, two county deputy sheriffs and a Maryland National Guard member who is a computer expert.

Mr. Hickman said some money is gained by confiscation of "drug money," as well as the seizure and buy-back program, in which owners of vehicles seized from suspected drug offenders can be bought back by the owners.

Any money obtained through drug arrests and seizure cannot be used until the completion of the case, he said.

Mr. Hickman told the commissioners his "wish list" includes a "big windfall" that would come from a task force seizure of a large amount of money -- or property that could be sold -- to provide additional capital or equipment.

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge asked Mr. Hickman, "Can we expect to see the same type of punishment for other alleged drug offenders as was recently given to a woman who had a very small amount of marijuana."

Mr. Hickman said the woman was convicted of maintaining a common nuisance, a felony charge, "and not just for possession of a small amount of marijuana. And she was a continuing offender who finally got caught."

Mrs. Gouge said the woman "may have led a lot of young people toward drugs through her store with those marijuana seeds available."

"It's time teachers and principals admit that drugs are available and are being sold in the schools and ask for help," Mrs. Gouge said.

Sgt. John Burton, the task force supervisor, told the commissioners that the police have good working relationships with the principals of the schools in the county.

State police have offered to search the schools with dogs if asked to do so by the principals.

Assistant State's Attorney Barton Walker III, the task force coordinator, told the commissioners that he has had success talking with high school students when he lectures them on responsibilities and consequences.

Mr. Walker said he tells students if they even offer a ride to a person having drugs and get stopped for any reason they stand a good chance of losing their cars, even if the drugs are not theirs.

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