State, local police plan drug forum Community members will be asked for ideas to halt substance abuse

December 09, 1997|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Spurred by two recent operations against major heroin, cocaine and marijuana networks in Carroll County, state and local police said yesterday that they plan a town meeting to bring together parents, students and community leaders to develop a strategy to stem drug abuse.

State police and the Carroll County Chiefs of Police Association will co-sponsor a Forum Against Drug Trafficking (FAST) on Dec. 18 at Westminster High School to address concerns about drugs in the community. The program could serve as a model for community and law enforcement leaders across the state, said 1st. Sgt. Chester Miller, a spokesman for the office of policy and strategy at state police headquarters in Pikesville.

Miller was one of about a dozen law enforcement officials, students and others who participated in a planning session at the Westminster barracks yesterday.

"Drugs are here [in Carroll County], but have not yet reached an epidemic stage," said Lt. Terry Katz, who works at the state police Criminal Intelligence Division in Columbia.

Last week, state and federal narcotics investigators smashed a cocaine and marijuana network that stretched from Mexico to Maryland. Fourteen people were arrested or indicted, including six from Westminster, two from Manchester and an alleged large-scale dealer from Reisterstown.

A month earlier, police broke up a heroin ring that linked a reputed Baltimore drug dealer with as many as 100 teens in Westminster, Hampstead and Manchester. A 17-year-old Carroll County youth was arrested and accused of supplying 80 to 100 students at Westminster and North Carroll high schools with heroin and other drugs purchased from a 26-year-old Baltimore man.

FAST organizers say the public forum is not about police making arrests. Those attending will hear general remarks and guidelines for breaking into smaller discussion groups that will be led by professional facilitators, not police officers, Katz said.

The information gathered will be summarized at the end of the small-group discussions, and will be used to develop a "map" of the county to pinpoint what the problems are, where they are and how they can be solved.

Organizers are promoting a free flow of discussion. Those attending will receive one of about a dozen color-coded fliers. The color will identify which discussion group they attend, so parents and students, for example, will likely join different discussion groups where they can speak openly about their experiences with or concerns about drugs, Katz said.

A parent might be concerned about where to get help for a child using drugs. That information can be provided, Katz said, but it also could point to a bigger need for health professionals to better out- line treatment programs available in the county.

Organizers say the forum will help alleviate unfounded concerns and that community police strategies can be designed to combat real problems.

"It may be, for example, that we can better market a [confidential, toll-free] tip line to gather information on street dealers, Katz said.

Last week's drug arrests started with local police in Howard County investigating street dealing in Ellicott City, he said.

"[FAST] will help everyone learn how to keep [the spread of drugs] from getting much worse. To ignore it won't make it go away," said Katz. "If we find people are apathetic, we will know we have to educate them. If not, then we will know we need better enforcement."

To encourage attendance, school officials say students will receive credit toward their community service graduation requirement.

The forum will be Dec. 18 at Westminster High School, 1225 Washington Road. Registration is at 6: 30 p.m. and the forum begins at 7 p.m.

Pub Date: 12/09/97

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