Pubdate: Thu, 31 May 2007
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2007 Asheville Citizen-Times
Author: Joel Burgess
Bookmark: (Policing - United States)
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


State, Buncombe Want to Partner With Towns

ASHEVILLE -- Without giving a specific incident, Buncombe County 
Sheriff Van Duncan said it has happened that a law enforcement 
officer from one department has targeted a drug suspect without 
knowing another department was also watching the suspect.

Preventing that kind of duplication of effort is one argument Duncan 
and Charles Moody, agent in charge for the Western District of the 
State Bureau of Investigation, gave Wednesday for forming a new 
multiagency task force. Another is that towns in the county are not 
always equipped to deal with street-level drug crime.

"They get undercover investigations done in their towns when these 
reports come in. Most of these small municipalities don't have the 
resources to do that," Duncan said of the benefits of the new 
Buncombe County Anti-Crime Task Force at a press conference at the 
Sheriff's Department.

BCAT would take the place of the Metropolitan Enforcement Group, a 
collaboration of agencies that dealt with higher-level drug crime and 
which Asheville left more than a year ago.

"One of the reasons the Asheville Police Department pulled out of 
this task force was because of the hue and cry in the community to do 
something about street-level drugs," the sheriff said.

BCAT will work with the city's drug suppression unit, and will 
concentrate on the county's own "street-level" drug crime outside 
Asheville, he said. The other locally based collaboration, U.S. Drug 
Enforcement Agency Task Force, will pick up bigger cases or those 
that occur outside Buncombe.

Organizers hope the county's other towns will participate. So far, 
Woodfin has signed on and Black Mountain appears interested, Duncan 
said. Weaverville has not made a decision and Biltmore Forest is set 
to hear the offer. Towns would contribute $28,424, or half an 
officer's salary for a total of two new officers. The county has 
agreed to pay for half an officer if necessary and to pick up full 
salaries if towns pull out after two years. Full participation would 
mean 13 officers and one administrator who would make the decision 
when to deploy the group. Towns would have a seat on the 
administrative board and access to drug seizure money.

BCAT began operating more than six weeks ago with a core group of 
county and state agents. It has already claimed some successes, 
including an undercover prostitution sting Thursday at a Bent Creek 
apartment building and the arrest Friday of Jeffery Paul in West 
Asheville for possession of a concealed weapon, marijuana and 18 
grams of cocaine.
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