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From mushrooms to methamphetamine, heroin, alcohol, pills and cocaine, local law enforcement has seen it all. And thanks, in part, to the Spencer County Drug Intervention fund, officers, deputies and troopers are hard at work to make sure tomorrow’s citizens don’t have to see it or see it tear their loved ones apart.
Established by county ordinance in 2007, the Spencer County Drug Intervention Fund is funded mostly by restitution payments of those convicted of drug- or alcohol-related crimes. According to the ordinance, the fund also accepts donations and can fund-raise.
The fund is controlled by an oversight committee, which is currently made up of Judge-Executive Bill Karrer, Mayor Don Pay, Sheriff Donald “Buddy” Stump, Police Chief Toby Lewis, County Attorney Ruth Hollan, Commonwealth’s Attorney Laura Donnell, Spencer County High School Counselor Darylyn Gray and Director of Pupil Personnel/Hillview Academy Principal Bob Hafendorfer.
The committee meets quarterly and decides how to expend its funds, which are to be used in “promoting the prevention of illegal drug use and apprehension of those promoting illegal drug use and drug trafficking in Spencer County, as well as, promoting education in the harmful effects of substance abuse.”
Since January, the committee has allocated $1,800 to these purposes. The Taylorsville Police Department received $300 to assist with its confidential informant/drug-buy program; $500 was expended to purchase billboards in the county featuring local law enforcement; and $1,000 was donated to fund the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, program at Spencer County Middle School.
Getting drugs off the streets
Taylorsville Police Officers Daniel Wills and Todd Walls have had a tremendous amount of success utilizing monies from the Drug Intervention Fund.
Prior to January, the police department received an allocation of $500. Added to the $300 received earlier this year, the police department has had $800 with which to conduct investigations and make drug-related arrests.
In the 12 to 18 months leading through May, Wills, Walls and the police department made 22 arrests in part using monies from the Drug Intervention Fund.
Because a large portion of the funds are recuperated through controlled buys and the seizure of property, the cost of making those arrests was approximately $374. Though more monies had been used, but recuperated, as of mid-May, the police department still had a balance of $426 from the original $800.
The controlled buys, which led to the July 2012 arrests and guilty pleas of four Taylorsville residents earlier this year, were conducted with these funds.
Through investigation, the police department was able to obtain search warrants for the residence of Raymond Birdsong, 61, of Hardin Court.
“During the execution of a search warrant by the Taylorsville Police Department, we located several items,” Wills wrote in Birdsong’s arrest citation. “We made controlled buys from the above person. We used marked money to purchase crack cocaine, which was located during the execution of the warrant. We found crack cocaine, marijuana, scales with white residue, baggies used to package illegal narcotics and pipes used to smoke cocaine.”
Margaret Tingle, 75, of Hardin Court; Terrence E. Gilbert, 48, of Gray’s Run Road; Patricia R. Hagan, 38, of Gray’s Run Road; and Birdsong were arrested and have since each pleaded guilty to related charges in Spencer Circuit Court.
Over the course of the last month, the total of monies spent has increased due to another drug-related arrest.
Joey Singer, 37, of Frontier Drive, was arrested earlier this month after an investigation revealed a three-stage marijuana grow in his residence. Singer is charged with cultivating marijuana, five plants or more, first offense; possession of marijuana; trafficking in marijuana, more than five pounds, first offense; and buy/possessing drug paraphernalia.
Asked how big of a problem drugs are in Taylorsville, Wills and Walls responded simultaneously: “Huge.”
A year and a half ago, the officers said the “popular” drugs of choice were meth and pills, but the implementation of KASPER, Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting, has made it more difficult for people to have access to pills.
Wills said he noticed an almost immediate shift to heroin, but more recently, the shift has been back to meth.
“You can track all problems back to drugs,” Walls said. “Even DUIs, because you have drug DUIs. And with theft, sometimes people steal to support their habit.”
But Wills and Walls will confidently say their mission is not complete, and won’t be until the drug problem is sufficiently curtailed in Taylorsville and Spencer County.
“If they don’t quit, we’re not going to quit,” Walls said.
“We’re still watching.”
Keeping drugs off the streets
Another primary way that law enforcement officials use the drug intervention fund is through education and creating awareness, said Sheriff Stump.
Stump referenced the billboards, one of which was posted on Main Street near the Sanctuary Arts Center, purchased through drug intervention funds.
This year’s board featured a Taylorsville Police officer, a Spencer County sheriff’s deputy and a Kentucky State Police trooper. Usually, those featured are the year’s recipients of the governor’s award for recording the highest number of DUIs in their respective areas, Stump said.
Those billboards, which promote the use of designated drivers, are reminders to passersby that law enforcement is watching, Stump said.
“We’re there, we’re not going to tolerate it,” he said of driving under the influence. “We want to decrease the number of accidents on the road.”
The $1,000 donation to the DARE program helped keep the program alive at the middle school this year.
All sixth-graders participate in the program, which aims to “teach students good decision-making skills to help them lead safe and healthy lives,” according to the DARE website.
Kentucky State Police Trooper Jennifer Johnson, a Spencer Countian, was the DARE officer this year. As DARE officer, Johnson met with the students at school on a regular basis to educate them on the harmful effects of using drugs and/or alcohol.
Judge-Executive Karrer, who is on the oversight committee for the Drug Intervention Fund, said at the request of Donnell, the Commonwealth’s attorney, the committee also recently purchased the suits used by the KSP meth lab cleanup team to render labs safe. Those suits have gotten some use over the last couple of weeks in Spencer County.
An active meth lab was discovered in a Main Street apartment earlier this month, and less than a week later, an inactive lab was recovered from a dumpster behind Settler’s Center.
How you can help
Spencer Countians can assist law enforcement in making these programs successful.
Wills and Walls, with the Taylorsville Police, said they are always available to take tips or reports or suspected drug use or trafficking.
Walls said citizens are welcome to contact him via cell phone at 502-643-5795, and citizens can always call dispatch at 502-477-5533.
“Call dispatch and leave a number to the attention of the Taylorsville Police,” Wills said.
Both Walls and Wills advise citizens that thorough investigations take time and not to get discouraged if they don’t see immediate action.
“It can be a long, drawn-out process,” Wills said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s not because we’re not looking at it.”
Their most recent investigation — into the indoor marijuana grow on Frontier Drive — took at least a month, Wills said.
Ultimately, the police officers say they’re here to help.
“Come tell us, I’ve got a problem,” Walls said.
“If you’ve got a drug problem, we can help with an avenue to seek treatment,” Wills said. “We can help.”
Walls encourages community members to become friends of the police department.
“Wave at us, speak to us,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be just turning in tips.”
Walls said he’s seen the effects of drugs on people he’s come to know and care for.
“We’re here for 10 hours a shift,” he said. “We become friends with people here. I have seen some of these people, who I’ve personally become friends with, affected [by drugs], and that bothers me.”