By BRIAN FERRY
The Warren County Drug Task Force is not operational at this time, but the program will return revamped.
That doesn't mean drug dealers have the run of the county.
"During this 'shut-down' there are still ongoing drug investigations and arrests being made by the individual law enforcement agencies - just not by the WCDTF," District Attorney Rob Greene said on Friday.
According to Greene, who assumed office in January, the task force was shut down by the previous district attorney, Ross McKeirnan.
McKeirnan said contracts with the municipalities involved in the task force were in his name. In the absence of discussions about transitioning those contracts, McKeirnan said he had to end them.
McKeirnan said he canceled his task force contracts with Youngsville Borough Police, Conewango Township Police and City of Warren Police because he would no longer be able to head up the program.
The contracts are critical.
"Those agreements have to be personally entered into with municipalities. Those agreements with the different municipalities... that's what gives them county-wide jurisdiction," McKeirnan said.
Workman's compensation and liability issues are also necessary components of the contracts.
Also critical is the funding.
"The funding is still available, as far as I know, through the Attorney General's office," McKeirnan said.
McKeirnan said the temporary absence of the task force has nothing to do with his thoughts about the program nor the fact that he lost the election, except that he simply does not have the authority to keep it going.
"Warren County, like everywhere else, has a need for drug law enforcement," McKeirnan said. "There is no vice officer with the state police (at the Warren barracks)."
So, the task force was the county-wide force against drugs.
"There was no transition or discussion of transition," McKeirnan said, adding, "I think it's worthwhile. I would hope that they would continue it."
That's the plan, according to Greene.
He said the program is being restructured, and that the task force will be back, under new leadership and with a new set of policies and procedures.
In addition to Greene, there is a new detective at the head of the operation - Dee Barrett-Klakamp.
"The Warren County Drug Task Force should be fully operational soon - within a month - with a new mission and vision," Greene said. "The new WCDTF will run its operations with integrity, professionalism, vigor, and responsiveness... with new policies and protocols to ensure the protection of individual liberties and to maximize the impact we will have on illegal drug traffic."
The targets are, "the kingpins, not the nickel and dime dealers."
"The new WCDTF will focus on mid- to upper-level drug dealers - not the guy who sold a marijuana joint to his friend," Greene said. "The WCDTF will be focused on the distribution of heroin, bath salts, methamphetamine, cocaine (powder and crack), and the growing epidemic of synthetic narcotics and illegal abuse and sale of prescription medications which is literally killing our kids."
Anyone with information about drug activity is asked to contact Barrett-Klakamp at 728-3460 or Warren County Crime Stoppers at 800-83-CRIME.
"If someone is making a living selling illegal narcotics in Warren County... fair warning, the new WCDTF is coming," Greene said.