Drug task force gets one right

May 27, 1994

Carroll County's Narcotics Task Force did the job it is supposed to do when it arrested a Randallstown man and confiscated more than two pounds of crack cocaine and heroin that had been stashed at his home.

The arrest of James Edward "Beany" Costley in a South Carroll park-and-ride lot for alleged possession of sizable amounts of drugs and gelatin capsules will do more to curtail drug traffic in Carroll County than most of the task force's other well-publicized drug arrests.

From what has been publicly divulged about this case so far, criticism of the task force's questionable tactics or seizures is not likely to follow. The reason is simple: The investigative work, cooperation with federal law enforcement officials and the seizure of two automobiles appear to have been done by the book and conformed to the letter and spirit of the law.

Since its inception in 1990, the task force has often resorted to heavy-handed tactics against anyone suspected of possessing drugs. As a result, the operation has been embarrassed several times, including such incidents as stopping and strip-searching a county commissioner on a flimsy tip and then finding no drugs, and seizing an automobile from a student who had a microscopic amount of drug residue in a pipe.

Cases like these may result in impressive arrest statistics but, in the end, they aren't very effective in curbing drug use in Carroll County or anywhere else. In 1993, the task force made dozens of drug arrests and seized a number of autos, yet that same year the county experienced its first drug-related killing.

Instead of pursuing small-time drug users and dealers, the task force needs to focus its efforts on the dealers who supply the street dealers. These are the criminals who create the corrosive conditions that lead to street violence and the destruction of communities. Even though it may take months of investigative work, the apprehension of dealers at this level will do more to undermine the county's drug trade than arresting scores of people possessing trace amounts of marijuana and seizing their cars.

Not every task force investigation will be as successful as this latest one appears to be. However, these kinds of arrests are the ones that reinforce the message that the task force intends to send. Drug dealing will not be tolerated in Carroll County; and it will be prosecuted.

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