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Task force targets drugs

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Last year two drug-related arrests in a single incident were made in Yellow Springs by the ACE Task Force, the Greene County agency that fights drug-related crimes at a multijurisdictional level. In 2010 the Task Force made five arrests in two separate incidents in the village. And in 2009 the force arrested six people who were suspected of buying and selling drugs in Yellow Springs. While the number of Task Force arrests in the village each year is not high, Yellow Springs Police Chief Arthur Scott believes the participation of the local department is worth the costs.

“In my opinion we get a pretty good bang for our buck,” he said in an interview last month.

Since 2005 the Yellow Springs Police Department has been a member of the Task Force to help pursue crime that stems from outside the village. Participating agencies include Xenia Police Division, Beavercreek, Fairborn, Yellow Springs and Sugarcreek Township police departments, the Greene County Sheriff and the Greene County Prosecutor. Cedarville Police, Wright State University and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation also provide support to the force. Each member agency pays an annual fee and provides staff to the Task Force. In return, the Task Force provides tactical and investigative officer training and distributes to each agency the criminal assets, both liquid and property, seized throughout the year.

The local department has typically provided one full-time officer who works exclusively on task force investigations. And last year, while other departments were cutting their staffing to the task force, the local department increased its support by providing an additional part-time officer one day per week to the force. According to Scott, the monetary cost to the Village is $46,000 per year in salaries for its Task Force officers and a $10,500 participation fee. The Village also loses at least one officer from the local force.

But the local department also benefits on several fronts, Scott believes. Since 2007, Yellow Springs police have taken in $229,000 in distributed assets from the Task Force (including about $30,000 last year), including several vehicles and flat screen televisions, which the department uses and redistributes to local youth and social service agencies, Scott said. The Task Force provides specialized training to local officers in areas such as how to respond to and decontaminate a methamphetamine production lab, monitoring device installation, tactical shooting, and entry and rescue techniques. The Task Force also provides officer assistance for incidents such as the bank robbery attempt at WesBanco in March. And, according to Task Force Director Bruce May, by supporting the Task Force, the village also helps to fight the root cause of drug-related crime in the region, which reduces its effect in Yellow Springs.

According to the most recent Task Force Review of 2011, the only arrest in Yellow Springs last year occurred in March at the Springs Motel, where the force caught two men from California and Montana who had brought hundreds of pounds of marijuana to Greene County over the past several years. Through an undercover drug purchase, the force arrested the suspects and recovered 20 pounds of marijuana and $20,000 in cash.

While the activity in the village last year was minimal, according to the 2011 Review, the Task Force as a whole issued 60 search warrants in Greene County and 29 in other jurisdictions, which resulted in 265 felony indictments against over 70 mostly male defendants. The charges included trafficking in crack cocaine, heroin, marijuana and pharmaceutical drugs and drug-related crime, including homicides, assaults, theft and crimes against the elderly. The Task Force seized over $935,000 in drugs last year, and had a 100 percent conviction rate.

Of note in 2011 was a rise in the number of meth labs operating in Greene County. According to May, new techniques increased the portability of the drug labs, which were found in farm fields, houses and vehicles all across the county. The Task Force discovered 11 labs last year, close to the highest year ever with 12 in 2005, and this year the force has already infiltrated eight drug labs around the county, May said.

Typically each participating agency has provided one to two officers to the force; however, last year staff shrank from 11 officers in 2009 to about six officers, due to budget cuts of most of the participating agencies, according to the review. And the local department too will continue to assess its ability to participate at the current level, Scott said. Presently the Yellow Springs department manages to cover its local shifts with a total of six full-time officers and one soon to be hired, another six part-time officers, 8 full and part-time dispatchers and a budget of $1.2 million. “We will continue to evaluate whether we can afford to lose an officer there [at the Task Force] while maintaining the manpower we need here,” Scott said.


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