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Task force on narcotics is reinstated; State's attorney, sheriff to supplement staff, state police say; Defunct since 1995; Agreement reached on disbursing of cash and property seized


The Carroll County Narcotics Task Force, defunct since 1995, will be back in operation with new partners by March, state police officials said yesterday.

Meeting to routinely inform the county's three-member Board of Commissioners on the status of the Resident Trooper Program and related matters, leaders of the state police regional drug unit told the commissioners that Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning and State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes have agreed to provide additional staff members for the task force.

They said Tregoning and Barnes will sign an agreement to stipulate how money and property seized during task force raids will be disbursed.

Disagreements on forfeiture issues led to the task force's dissolution in July 1995, when John H. Brown, then the sheriff, and Westminster Police Chief Sam R. Leppo withdrew support and began operating their own drug units.

"Sheriff Tregoning will assign one deputy full time to the task force and provide a canine unit -- deputy handler and a dog -- on a part-time basis," said Lt. Tom Long, who supervises state police drug operations in 12 counties for the state police.

Long said Barnes has committed himself to assigning three prosecutors to assist the task force as needed.

Under the proposed agreement, Tregoning, Barnes and Col. David B. Mitchell, superintendent of the Maryland State Police, or his stand-in, would sit as three voting members on a newly formed Task Force Advisory Board.

Tregoning would be the seizing authority for forfeitures, meaning that money seized in raids in Carroll County would remain in the county to be used in combating drugs. Property, such a vehicles, would be titled to the sheriff's office, said Detective Sgt. Doug Whelan of the task force.

Forfeited money would be held in escrow, under state law, until a court determined whether the forfeiture was proper and legal, Long said.

At that time, forfeited money would be placed in an interest-bearing account with the county treasurer, he said.

The advisory board would vote on how to spend it, and the county treasurer would pay bills as needed.

Whelan said five chiefs of municipal police agencies in Carroll County and Larry Faries, coordinator of security for the county schools, have been invited to join the advisory board as nonvoting members.

Each could become a voting member by assigning an officer to the task force or providing significant resources such as equipment.

A draft of the agreement is being prepared and is expected to be signed by March 1, Long said.

In other matters, Lt. Leonard M. Armstrong, commander at the Westminster barracks, told the commissioners that the state police remain committed to providing resources to the Westminster barracks, "its flagship barracks."

Armstrong said 42 troopers are assigned to Westminster in addition to 51 resident troopers.

Salaries and benefits for the resident troopers, the county's primary police agency, are essentially paid by Carroll County.

The number of troopers is up by six since last year, Armstrong said.

He said he could call on a state police strike force to help with specific problems, as he did last year when there was a rash of convenience store and pizza shop robberies in south Carroll.

Troopers plan to begin working 10-hour shifts in July, said 1st Sgt. Eric Danz, who will meet with court officials to plan the scheduling of court dates around troopers' days off to help alleviate overtime costs.

1st Sgt. Dean Richardson outlined several programs to the Board of Commissioners, including Adopt a Neighborhood, in which troopers get out of their cruisers to do "old-fashioned foot-patrol work" and Operation Spotlight, in which troopers identify problem residents using information from parole and probation officials.

Pub Date: 2/02/99

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