Aberdeen police sponsor community drugs meeting

May 24, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

To Aberdeen Police Chief John Jolley, drugs have affected all types of city households -- rich and poor, young and old, regardless of race or gender.

But Jolley believes that the drug problem is no worse in his city than in any other community.

"Aberdeen appears to be a hub of drug activity," Jolley said. "It's not. But it appears that way."

To increase public involvement in the city's fight against drugs, the Police Department sponsored a community meeting on Wednesday to outline programs aimed at reducing narcotics supply and demand.

The department brought in speakers from the Harford Joint Narcotics Task Force and the county Drug and Alcohol Impact Program for the meeting.

Pamphlets explaining anti-drug programs were stacked on a table along a wall of the meeting room, ready for citizens attending the session.

The mayor, two city councilmen and 10 police officers attended.

About 100 seats were set up for citizens, but only two people showed up.

"Two is better than none," Jolley said. "Maybe we'll have more next time."

Diane Saia came to the meeting, bringing along neighbor Ann Cox. Saia said she wanted to see what she can do to help ease the drug problem before it affects her two children, who are 2 and 4 years old.

"I don't want them to grow up into a worse problem," said Saia, who lives in the Warwick Apartments complex. "I want to know what I can do to help my community."

With its easy access to Interstate 95 and Amtrak lines, Aberdeen is a regular stop for drug dealers, said state police Sgt. August Stern, spokesman for the narcotics task force.

"We do sit kind of centrally located," Stern said. "It's an extreme high-travel route for drug dealers."

The task force, which consists of the county's police agencies and the Harford State's Attorney's Office, targets mid-level drug dealers, the sergeant said.

In Aberdeen, police have set up a special patrol program for the Washington Park apartment complex, once a well-known hang-out for drug dealers.

The program provides foot patrols 14 hours a day at the apartments. The $4,000 cost of the program is paid by the complex's management, Jolley said.

Before the program started in 1989, the police made about 20 drug-related arrests a month at the complex, according to the department. Now, about three arrests are made in a month.

"As far as I'm concerned, I consider that to be a success for the city of Aberdeen," the chief said. "We know that [the program] works."

The extra patrols, however, are believed to have pushed drug dealers out of Aberdeen and into other communities, such as Havre de Grace and Perryman, Jolley said.

For other Aberdeen neighborhoods, the city received an $18,000 federal grant to pay for extra patrols, surveillance on drug dealers and traffic stops to search for narcotics.

Since the program started six months ago, the department's search for drugs during 250 traffic stops resulted in 25 arrests, said Sgt. Kenneth Cox of the city Police Department.

One traffic stop netted a half-pound of cocaine, which had a street value of $25,000, Cox said.

The department conducted 100 drug seizures that brought in $4,000 in cash and property from suspects so far this year, Cox said. Last year, the department conducted 125 seizures, netting $5,000 in cash and property.

Jolley noted that the money seized from drug dealers is put into the Police Department to pay for drug investigations.

But Stern cautioned that "law enforcement is not going to solve this problem alone. Unless we do something about the demand, it's still going to be there."

That's where services like the Drug and Alcohol Impact Program and Drug Abuse Resistance Education program come in, Stern said. The impact program treats drug abuse within all age groups; DARE provides lessons for youths to avoid drugs.

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