Wednesday, September 24, 2014
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Are local police officers equipped to fight the war on drugs in Lincoln?

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[September 24, 2014]  LINCOLN - Do Lincoln police officers have what they need in order to battle drug dealing and addiction in the city?

Police Chief Ken Greenslate says they do. And, not only do they have what it takes, they are using it effectively.

For the Lincoln Police Department, there are a variety of tools they are using to combat the drug problem locally. Not the least of which, is address drug prevention through youth programs.

Greenslate said the department first has the D.A.R.E. program for local sixth-graders. The city's D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer, works with youngsters to teach them how to say no to drugs and alcohol, and encourage them to live a substance-free life.

On the high school level, the city is going into its second school year with an officer being assigned to the Lincoln Community High School full-time. Greenslate said the decision to put a full-time officer at the high school was a collaboration between the city and high school with both parties contributing to financial support of the full-time officer.

The safety officer at the high school, Greenslate said, is there primarily to offer security and protection for the students. However, the result has been that the officer is a trusted official in the school whom kids can come to as a confidant.

Greenslate emphasized that this was a side benefit of the safety officer, “I want to make it clear, we are not there to arrest kids, we are there to keep them safe and give them someone they can talk to.”

In addition to working at the youth level, the police department also collaborates with several other organizations to help fight and prevent drug abuse. Greenslate noted the department works with the Healthy Communities Partnership in Logan County and is also part of the Drug Court program. It also works with the Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous, and helps addicts get help through the Tazwood Wellness Center that has an office in Lincoln.

Greenslate said that for the addict, the best solution is not always incarceration. The very best thing, he said is to help an addict become drug-free. One alternative to incarceration for addicts is the Drug Court. Drug Court was adopted by the state of Illinois in 2002 as an alternative to jail for minors.

According to a news release published in LDN in 2002, the drug court program was described as follows:

“The intention of the law is to reduce drug abuse among minors. Under the law, a minor may be admitted into a drug court program only upon the agreement of the prosecutor and minor and with the approval of the court; a minor is excluded from the program if the crime committed is violent in nature. The law also requires drug court programs to maintain a network of substance abuse treatment programs representing a continuum of graduated substance abuse treatment options commensurate with the needs of minors. If the minor violates the conditions of the drug court program, the court may impose reasonable punishments on the minor.”

Greenslate said that Drug Court has seen some successes, but also a few failures. In essence though, he feels like it is a good program that is providing help to several people.

“Our goal is to help people, not just put them in jail. Putting an addict in jail does not solve the problem,” Greenslate said.

The Tazwood program is another alternative for drug abusers. According to their website, the Tazwood Wellness Center has a mission “to promote wellness and recovery through counseling, advocacy and education. Tazwood will always adhere to the highest standards and strive for the best interest of those we serve.”

Angela Stoltzenburg of the Healthy Communities Partnership in Logan County also commented on the work that organization is doing. 

“Healthy Communities Partnership is a local collaborative effort funded by the Abraham Lincoln Healthcare Foundation. We support and collaborate local efforts to create the healthiest community in America. While we have much work to do, we have several initiatives in progress to address high priority health needs in our community. 5 2 1 0 is an obesity prevention campaign we currently have underway to address the high obesity rate in Logan County.

In addition, we are working with the health department and local schools to encourage coordinated school health to make the healthy choice the easy choice for our young people as they learn lifelong habits.

We promote substance-free lifestyles through community education events and coordinate a drug recycling program initiative which has provided free and safe drug disposal options to residents throughout Logan County."

“The Healthy Communities Partnership represents the best of Logan County: the spirit to partner and collaborate with one another to improve the health and the quality of life for the people and communities we serve.”

And the final question, what is the city doing to catch and prosecute hard-core offenders?

Greenslate said there is a lot of work goes into a solid arrest, it doesn’t happen over-night. In order to assure a conviction, the department has first to do its job by making error free arrests.

Greenslate said the department has under-cover officers continually gathering information and putting together solid cases. In the past two years several arrests have been made, and he said, cases are being built, and more arrests will be made in the future.

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“Making a solid arrest takes research. It is time-consuming, requires certain resources, intelligence gathering, and it all has to be done in a specific order.” Greenslate said it isn’t good enough to just have probable cause; he has to have evidence, and everything also has to be done in such a manner as to protect the constitutional rights of the suspect.

In addition to local partnerships, the city department is also part of a regional drug task force. Greenslate said this partnership a very important part of being successful in battling drug abuse in Lincoln. The Central Illinois Enforcement Group (CIEG) includes Cass, Christian, Logan, Mason, Menard, Morgan and Sangamon Counties, and coincides with the Illinois State Police District 9. Greenslate said that through the task force his department has access to shared information from the state police as well as all the counties actively involved in the CIEG. Additionally the task force offers some financial resources as well as manpower for investigations. Through the task force, the city of Lincoln has access to federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).

Greenslate expressed appreciation to the Lincoln City Council. He said the council provided a valuable tool when in spite of budget constraints, it came up with the funds to hire an additional officer so the department could become part of the CIEG.

Mayor Keith Snyder is also pleased about the membership in the CIEG and believes it is beneficial to the community.

Snyder offered up the following comments on the drug issue in Lincoln and the value of the CIEG and the Lincoln Police Department.

“No one would ever deny that there are drug issues in Lincoln. Our police department deals with such matters on a weekly basis, and they would be the first to tell you that the economic strains caused by the recession that began six years ago have exacerbated those issues. As a city, though, we haven't stuck our heads in the sand.

“Two years ago the Lincoln City Council dipped into its general fund budget to add an officer to the police department so we could assign one of our veteran street patrol officers to the Central Illinois Enforcement Group. This enforcement group is comprised of state, county, and municipal officers from across Illinois State Police District 9, which includes Cass, Christian, Logan, Mason, Menard, Morgan and Sangamon counties. The organization works with local, state, and federal agencies to combat drug-related crimes.

“We cannot release information on pending arrests, or even on all successful arrests, made by the Enforcement Group for fear of compromising ongoing cases. Rest assured however, the Group has an extremely impressive track record in reducing all drug crimes. Drug issues aren't limited to one municipality or one county. This regional effort not only makes the most sense operationally, but has had the most success in fighting the matter.”

Greenslate noted that on the local “officer level,” Lincoln police officers are involved in ongoing education and training that helps them build better cases and stronger convictions.

In summary, Chief Greenslate feels that his department is very well equipped to address the issue of drugs in the city of Lincoln.

And as the final link in the chain, Greenslate said the Logan County State's Attorney, Jonathan Wright and his office work well with the city, and do a great job of seeking and winning convictions.

Is the trend of drug abuse rising?

Yes, it is, Greenslate said. But he added, it is rising everywhere, not just in Lincoln.

Can it be stopped?

Probably not in its entirety. The cycle begins, and it evolves. The bottom line is, regardless of where you are, whenever one drug dealer is arrested, convicted, and sentenced; there is another one ready to take his or her place.

But, Greenslate said, that does not mean we have an epidemic. A problem? "Yes."

Greenslate concluded, "Lincoln is no worse than any other town, probably not as bad as many. We have a lot of people working hard to make Lincoln a better place. And they will continue to do so because Lincoln is a good town, a good place to live, and a good place to raise a family.”


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