Police create new drug task force

Kimberly Dick

To counter the rising drug problems in the county, Portage County Sheriff Duane Kaley and Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci joined forces to reform and create a new drug task force.

“We got together and decided that we can’t do drug enforcement in a county this size without the cooperation of each department, everyone contributing at least one officer, and doing it county-wide,” Vigluicci said.

This new task force, led by the Portage County Sheriff’s Office, will include police departments from Aurora, Brimfield, Kent, Ravenna, Streetsboro and Windham.

The Portage County Drug Task Force should be operating within the next couple of weeks. They have had several prepatory meetings, and they will hold another meeting to sit down and finalize the agreements, Kaley said.

“What we are trying to accomplish is to reduce drug trafficking in the Portage County area,” Kaley said. “We have noticed an influx of meth labs coming into the county.”

He said Summit County has been active in trying to curb its methamphetamine problems. When this happens it moves the activity to other counties, and in this case there is an increase of meth labs in Portage County.

Vigluicci said he and Kaley approached each department in the major cities and townships, and a lot of them were cooperative about dedicating at least one officer and funds to aid the task force.

Kaley estimates each department participating will give around $7,000 to the task force, but the figure is not yet finalized. The task force also will get federal funding as needed.

“We use these funds for narcotics purchases, criminal information, equipment and other costs associated with a unit like this,” Kaley said.

Dedicating an officer to the task force takes away from the department’s manpower, but Kent Police Department Lt. Ray Stein said it helps in the long run.

“Since we don’t have a task force now, we have to spend our time and resources conducting drug investigations,” he said. “The task force will help, even though we are missing one person. We don’t have to allocate a lot of us and take a lot of our time.”

The allocated officers’ primary duties will be the task force, but they will be called back to their departments, Kaley said.

The Kent State Police Department was asked to be involved with this task force, but they have financial issues, Vigluicci said.

Recent university budget decreases have caused the Kent State Police Department to reduce staff.

“We still have good relations with all the agencies involved, but cutbacks have made us unable to commit staffing to a drug task force,” said Chief John Peach of the Kent State Police Department.

Peach said there isn’t an unusually large drug problem on campus, but there is some drug activity.

“You can be assured that there will be vigorous drug enforcement on campus,” he said. “If we need assistance, we will call the drug task force. We just have different means of getting there.”

The officers involved in the task force will have county-wide jurisdiction for the purpose of drug enforcement. Vigluicci said this jurisdiction would allow the drug task force to work at Kent State.

“Not only will Kent City Police Department be doing drug enforcement, but the county task force will also be doing enforcement on campus,” he said. “We intend on using undercover officers on campus, whether or not Kent State is participating.”

This task force is replacing the Western Portage Drug Task Force, formed in 1995, and the sheriff’s own drug unit.

“We’ve always had a drug task force,” Vigluicci said. “There actually used to be two drug task forces in the county, but state and federal funding has been running low.”

The Kent State Police Department’s withdraw from the program partially caused the county’s task force to dissipate last summer, Vigluicci said.

“When they pulled out, it was kind of the last straw because the administrative portion was gone,” he said.

Contact public affairs reporter Kimberly Dick at [email protected].