State police have seized hundreds of pounds of drugs in Frederick County in the 13 months since troopers were pulled out of a drug task force with the county sheriff’s office.
State troopers have opened 45 drug cases and made 25 arrests related to drug trafficking since three troopers assigned to the task force were withdrawn in September 2013, Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said. Nine more arrests were pending as of late October, Shipley said, calling the agency’s renewed focus on disrupting statewide crime an overall success.
“We have seized 250 pounds of marijuana, 365 pounds of synthetic marijuana, 65 pounds of khat, 1,700 OxyContin pills, 11⁄2 pounds of hashish and a kilogram of cocaine (in the county),” Shipley said. “So when we pulled out of the task force, we didn’t abandon Frederick County.”
Sheriff Chuck Jenkins expressed disappointment when state police announced their withdrawal from the task force in 2013. State police also scaled back patrol efforts in 2012, leaving the sheriff’s office to handle calls for service along Md. 355 and Md. 85.
“Basically, what they told me was they were focusing more of their efforts on statewide interdiction and trafficking operations,” Jenkins said. “The superintendent of the Maryland State Police does not answer to the people of Frederick County.”
Total calls for service had declined for the sheriff’s office. Most notably, calls handled by sheriff’s deputies dropped one year by 9,448 — from 98,876 in 2011 to 89,428 in 2012, according to agency statistics.
In 2013, calls jumped back up to 95,223, an increase of 5,795 calls that Jenkins attributed to the pullout of state police patrols along Md. 355 and Md. 85.
Deputies handled 10,821 calls for service on Md. 355 and Md. 85 from July 1, 2013 — immediately after the state police patrol refocus — through Oct. 23, said Capt. Troy Barrick, of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.
“And if you look at any of the state routes, we’re still out there providing service and support, even on those routes that we don’t have primary responsibility for,” Barrick said. “Even if (state police) handle it, we’re their support, generally.”
State police based in the Frederick barrack still handle calls for service along most interstates, including I-270, I-70, U.S. 15 and U.S. 340, said sheriff’s Capt. Ron Hibbard. Resident troopers are also stationed in Walkersville, Hibbard said.
Shipley pointed at drug interdiction efforts undertaken by the Western Maryland Major Traffickers Initiative, a state police program aimed at stemming the tide of drugs into Washington, Allegany, Garrett and Frederick counties.
“Our role is not to be the local police,” Shipley said. “We feel our role ... is to fill that gap between local law enforcement and federal authorities. Our focus is on interjurisdictional and statewide crime, and that includes drugs.”
State police provide patrol coverage in many areas of the state, but as local agencies grow, troopers gradually refocus their efforts, Shipley said.
“How are the drugs getting into the state? Where are the drugs coming from that are ending up on that Frederick street corner?” Shipley said. “Our efforts are on stopping the drugs before they can even get there.”
Jenkins said the sheriff’s office is equipped to handle its responsibilities: The agency was staffed by 170 sworn deputies as of late October, with 11 recruits in training at the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commission’s training academy in Sykesville and 10 other positions already funded for future classes.
Meanwhile, only 42 sworn troopers were available to handle calls for service and conduct traffic enforcement out of the Frederick barrack in 2014, Shipley said.
“When I came here in 1990, it was the exact opposite,” Jenkins said. “Maryland State Police was the larger agency by far. We were far younger and a much smaller agency with only about 62 sworn deputies.”
While Jenkins admitted that he could understand the decision by state police to scale back their efforts, he remained critical of the scope of the withdrawal.
“I still don’t think it’s a good idea to pull all of your resources out of local initiatives,” Jenkins said. “But we are just as successful without them ... our numbers are consistent to prior to MSP pulling out in terms of the number of cases, the number of search warrants executed.”
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