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Rock County seeks federal help with drug crime

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
October 8, 2009

Rock County is facing drug-trafficking challenges and needs the federal government’s help.


That’s the gist of a letter that sens. Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold sent to the Office of National Drug Control Policy on Tuesday.


The senators were acting on a request from Rock County Sheriff Bob Spoden.


Spoden had applied to become a part of the Milwaukee High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federal program, but was turned down, to his surprise.


Spoden said he met with the senators and gathered more data on the local drug/violence problem. The result was Tuesday’s letter.


The letter cites the county’s central location between drug traffickers in nearby big cities and the recent increase in heroin infiltrating the area, along with an upsurge in violent crime.


“Rock County has experienced a significant increase in crime in 2009 that cannot be ignored,” the letter states. “Rock County has experience at least 12 heroin overdose deaths this year … and the county is on pace to see a 35 percent increase in drug related arrests this year alone. …


“Law enforcement authorities in Rock County report that at least eight gangs have been identified as trafficking crack cocaine and/or heroin within the county and commit violent crimes in order to protect their drug operations.”


Spoden said Kenosha, Racine and Dane counties are part of the Milwaukee-based effort. If Rock County joined the group, it would be eligible for:


-- Overtime funding of $5,000 to $6,000 a year for drug raids.


-- Access to surveillance equipment.


-- Free training for local officers.


-- Access to officers from other counties’ law-enforcement agencies for special operations.


-- Access to intelligence analysts as well as federal law enforcement databases, photos from the Federal Bureau of Prisons and ready-made relations with other High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, such as the one based in Chicago.


Local officers already can access some of that federal data, but the designation would streamline the process, Spoden said.


Police departments in the county would benefit similarly, Spoden said.


The feds also would benefit: “We would be able to provide them a lot of street-level intelligence that would be of benefit to them and other members of the HIDTA,” Spoden said.


Spoden said the federal overseer of the Milwaukee HIDTA approached Spoden about 18 months ago, asking if Rock County would like to join, and Rock County has done some limited work with the Milwaukee-based group.


“We were surprised when we didn’t get it, candidly speaking, and that’s when I contacted the senators and had them review it,” Spoden said.



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