Officials renew commitment to fight Westminster drug use CENTRAL--Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

April 14, 1993|By Bill Talbott | Bill Talbott,Staff Writer

Westminster Police Chief Sam Leppo said yesterday that if the City Council approves the funding, four new police officers could be on the streets by July 1.

He spoke at a news conference held by Mayor W. Benjamin Brown to reiterate the city's commitment to fight illegal drugs.

"Without the customers we have no problem," the mayor said. "All the buyers/users, whether they be the housewife, the real estate agent, the laborer or whoever, they are the problem."

He mentioned the proposed expansion of the city force and praised Chief Leppo for the 64 drug arrests in Westminster last year.

"We have to fight the war on drugs on the street, and we have to fight to win," Mayor Brown said.

Chief Leppo said if funding is approved for the new officers, he would immediately begin background investigations and could have applicants trained by July 1.

Two officers would be assigned to the detective division and one to the expanded community policing program. The fourth would be assigned to fight drug abuse in Westminster.

Mayor Brown said he would like to extend drug-free zones to areas 1,000 feet around city playgrounds as well as schools and intends to go to the next General Assembly session with the proposal.

Penalties are heavier for drug dealing in drug-free school zones.

With the number of playground facilities in the city, the drug-free zones would cover virtually all of Westminster, Mr. Brown said.

State's Attorney Thomas Hickman told city and county officials that members of his office and local law enforcement officers, working together on numerous arrests and convictions, made a dent in drug dealing in the city.

The Carroll County Task Force made 36 drug arrests within the city and a total of 100 in the county, Mayor Brown said.

The work of Assistant State's Attorney Bill Dugan, a former police officer, with the officers of Westminster and the task force led to 25 drug arrests between Jan. 15 and April 1, Mr. Hickman said.

Bart Walker 3rd, assistant state's attorney, leader of the county task force and prosecutor of accused drug dealers, said he is particularly concerned with repeat offenders and recently saw a three-time offender sentenced to 25 years in prison.

He said some defendants have told him, "Treat me hard the first time and maybe I'll stop."

Sgt. John Burton, supervisor of the task force, said an open-air market in Westminster has served mostly local residents, and no juveniles have been arrested or observed as dealers or buyers there.

The market has come to a standstill because of officers and a marked car patrolling the area around the clock, he said.

Chief Leppo said new posters, requesting members of the crime watch program and others to "Report All Criminal Activities," are being printed to replace the present posters.

When questioned about the availability of drugs in schools, Mayor Brown said school children have access to drugs, but not necessarily in the schools.

"We should listen to our children," he added. "They know."

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