• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Police task force to attack drug trafficking in area

Law enforcement officers in Bourbon, Scott and Woodford counties have begun working more closely in their ongoing efforts to investigate and get drug dealers off the streets in their communities. A newly formed narcotics task force will be headquartered at the Georgetown Police Department, but police officers and sheriff deputies assigned to the task force will investigate drug trafficking cases in all three counties making up the 14th Judicial Circuit. "You're always trying to figure out how to address the drug issue . It's an evolving problem," said Commonwealth's Attorney Gordie Shaw. He said heroin has become the drug of choice for many dealers these days, but other drugs such as cocaine and pain pills are still being trafficked. "The police are constantly trying to attack the drug problem in different ways," said Shaw. He credited the Bluegrass and Central Kentucky Unified Police Protection System (BACKUPPS) for providing the framework for a multi-jurisdiction approach, which will allow law enforcement officers in Bourbon, Scott and Woodford counties to work as a unit to attack drug trafficking in all of their communities. "It increases the manpower (as well as resources) because we're operating jointly," said Versailles Police Chief James Fugate. He said drug trafficking investigations are often lengthy, so it's very beneficial when you're able to commit more law enforcement personnel to those investigations. "It just made sense to make a combined effort to combat the drug issue here in this circuit," added Fugate. He said Keith Ford was assigned to the task force because of his experience as a narcotics detective with the Lexington Police Department. "The focus always has been and will continue to be getting those drugs and traffickers off the street," said Fugate. Shaw said he's hopeful this newly organized drug task force will make significant inroads into combating the drug trade like one undertaken in Bourbon County several years ago - an effort involving local, state and federal law enforcement officers that resulted in 55 arrest warrants and prosecutions for drug trafficking and gang-related activities. "That made a huge impact in neighborhoods in Paris. It also had an impact as far as the distribution (of drugs) into the neighboring counties," said Shaw. He did not rule out other nearby counties joining the new drug task force if efforts prove successful. "There is no one drug issue that stays in one single county or jurisdiction. We know that," said Georgetown Police Chief Michael Bosse, who has committed two of his officers to the recently formed narcotics task force. "Nobody's criminals only commit crimes in their particular cities or counties." He said BACKUPPS has 26 police agencies involved, including the Versailles Police Department. Because of its success, BACKUPPS will soon expand to include another 14 law enforcement agencies. "So we anticipate to just keep growing," said Bosse. Shaw estimates that 70 percent of the criminal court cases being prosecuted in Bourbon, Scott and Woodford counties are drug-related. "We know in law enforcement that a huge percentage of our crime is driven by addiction," said Bosse. "Right now, our biggest problem is heroin and opiate addiction." Woodford Circuit Judge Rob Johnson supports this team approach to attacking the supply-side of the drug epidemic, which this father of five said tears apart families. The drug epidemic has been more of an issue in Bourbon and Scott counties, where the criminal court dockets are typically more lengthy than Woodford County, according to Johnson. One of his frustrations remains the inability of someone who wants help for a drug addiction to get "the treatment they need" before being convicted of a felony and placed on probation in his court. "It would be a better system if we could have some of these treatment facilities more available before someone (had to) plead guilty in felony criminal case," Johnson said. Once someone has a felony conviction on his or her record, he said it becomes more difficult to get a job and "get back on your feet." He credited his circuit's probation and parole officers for their willingness to assist people who are serious about turning their lives around. And it frustrates him when they don't take advantage of those opportunities while on probation.

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