Lancaster County law-enforcers sent a public message Tuesday to heroin dealers:
There will be harsh treatment from police and prosecutors.
District Attorney Craig Stedman, joined by several police chiefs and investigators, announced a new sentencing policy for heroin dealers, which includes seeking state prison for almost all charged with felony trafficking.
Lengthy state-prison sentences will be sought for repeat offenders.
Stedman has implemented an office policy for his prosecutors, who will seek those penalties in constructing plea deals and when a judge asks for input at sentencing.
State sentencing guidelines for heroin dealers are far too low, Stedman said, considering the damage caused by those dealing the strongest heroin ever seen here – and at all-time low costs.
“We are focused on prevention, education and treatment,” Stedman said. “We can’t arrest our way out of (this epidemic); however, we can’t take enforcement out of the solution.
“We want to increase the severity of incarceration to compensate for the gravity of the crimes.”
Lancaster city police Chief Keith Sadler said heroin is tied to many police responses and investigations.
Many shootings, homicides, burglaries and robberies, Sadler said, “are directly related to this drug.
“The heroin trade is protected by violence, extortion… It's a competitive business.”
Detective John Burkhart, head of Lancaster County’s Drug Task Force, outlined how the heroin trade has grown here exponentially in recent years.
- The Task Force conducted 24 proactive heroin investigations in 2011; that number grew last year to 72.
- From 2006 to 2010, 13 percent of the Task Force’s felony drug charges were primarily for heroin-dealing; So far this year, heroin accounts for 67 percent of the Task Force’s felony caseload.
- In 2011 and 2012, the Task Force had 3 cases involving bulk heroin; since 2013, there have been 29.
Burkhart described dealers as “predatory,” and will go to lengths to keep their illegal drug enterprise afloat.
“A dealer knows when (an addict) is home from rehab. They entice them back into that life,” Burkhart said.
Stedman announced this office policy for his prosecutors, with the notation that exceptions will be made:
- Dealers convicted of having 1-5 grams = 2-year minimum prison sentence; repeat offenders = 3-year minimum.
- Dealers convicted of having 5-50 grams = 3-year minimum; repeat offenders = 5-year minimum.
- Dealers convicted of having over 50 grams = 5-year minimum; repeat offenders = 7-year minimum.
Joining Stedman, Sadler and Burkhart in support of the policy were: Lancaster County Chief Detective Kent Switzer; Lancaster city police Selective Enforcement Unit Head Damon Greathouse; Manor Township police Chief/President of Lancaster County Chiefs Association Todd Graeff; Assistant District Attorney Todd Kriner.
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