Lancaster County law-enforcers continue to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic, and for 2017, will have even more support and resources from area municipalities.
The Lancaster County Drug Task Force, a team of detectives that conducts proactive investigations with informants and surveillance tactics, will have additional detectives and increased funding for the new year.
Ephrata and Elizabethtown police departments will each provide a detective to serve on the task force, after recent votes from their municipal boards.
Also, a veteran detective, Jeff Krause, joins the task force as an evidence specialist, collecting and analyzing evidence while processing crime scenes and drug-dealing locations.
Additionally, two townships, East Hempfield and West Lampeter, are increasing their annual financial contributions to the task force, which operates on a budget from municipal contributions and funds seized in criminal prosecutions. That funding is vital to keep the task force operating at full tilt.
Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman oversees the task force, led by Detective Sgt. John Burkhart. Stedman believes the additional support shows Lancaster County leaders are making the epidemic a top priority.
“They clearly grasp the scope of the epidemic and are willing to devote much-needed resources to fighting this scourge,” Stedman said Wednesday. “Given the crisis, there is a greater need than ever before to have a proactive drug task force is devoted to stopping mid- to upper-level dealers and helping save lives by ridding communities of these poisons.
“The municipalities are stepping up and I truly appreciate their commitment.”
About 60 percent of the task force’s investigations and seizures involve opioids, according to Detective Burkhart. Last year, 79 individuals from 68 opioid-related investigations were charged.
The task force seized 1,200 grams of heroin – or 40,000 doses – from Lancaster County drug dealers. More and more bulk heroin is making its way to the area, putting heroin prices at an all-time low, according to Burkhart.
The task force continues to see many batches, sold as heroin, laced with fentanyl or straight fentanyl, which the federal Drug Enforcement Administration estimates is 40 to 50 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl is involved in numerous fatal overdoses here and across the nation.
The detectives from Ephrata and Elizabethtown will join the task force this year. Already on the team are detectives from:
Manheim Township, Columbia Borough, East Earl Township, Lancaster City (two), New Holland Borough, East Hempfield Township, West Lampeter Township, Manheim Borough, and Millersville Borough.
This year, Lancaster County will increase medical benefit reimbursement to the detectives’ departments to $10,000 per year, after the detectives serve two years on the task force. Previously, the reimbursement was $8,000 a year after three years of service.
The task force targets dealers and trafficking operations across the county. Lancaster city police’s Selective Enforcement Unit targets dealers within city limits.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brett A. Hambright, 717-295-2041; email@example.com; Twitter: @BrettHambright