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EDITORIAL: Enforcement,  not just education, required in drug fight

Two contrasting images of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office appear in today’s Times-Mirror.

The first, appearing on Page A2, shows deputies helping children understand the equipment and the procedures for public safety. The photos of law enforcement authorities with kids on Child Safety Day make us feel safe and secure.

The other, a front page story by veteran law enforcement reporter Crystal Owens, reveals a striking decline in drug arrests by the Sheriff’s Office. That story gives us pause.

In the 11-month period between August 2013 and June 2014, the Sheriff’s Office reported only 56 narcotics arrests in Loudoun County. That compares to 2,341 in Chesterfield County for all of 2013. Chesterfield, with a population of 327,000 people, or about 20,000 people fewer than Loudoun, is frequently used by law enforcement officials as a benchmark for comparing crime statistics between the two Virginia counties.

Some Loudoun County officials are concerned about the disparity. So are we. While we appreciate the differences between the two counties, the numbers point to a problem that lurks beneath Loudoun’s growth story and its enviable quality of life.

Sheriff Mike Chapman acknowledges the challenges of drug enforcement in a county as complex as Loudoun, but he attributes the low numbers to restructuring the drug unit. Twenty-one deputies formerly worked in the Office’s Special Investigations Section, which investigated narcotics and anti-crime cases. Five vacancies currently exist, according to Sheriff Chapman, and most of the remaining personnel of the 17-person Tactical Enforcement Unit are now assigned to drug education, multi-jurisdictional task forces or other crime units.

Sheriff Chapman also acknowledges the chilling impact of an internal embezzlement case that has drained the office’s coffers. Little money or resources exist for the undercover drug buys that lead to arrests and asset seizures.

Earlier this year, Leesburg and Loudoun law enforcement told Attorney General Mark Herring that an increase in heroin abuse among its citizens has gradually gotten worse over the last two years. Herring said he's been concerned with the problem since taking office in January.

“I would say it's a noticeable, emerging increase …,” adds Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman.

There have been significant increases of overdoses and crimes relating to the drug throughout Northern Virginia.

Loudoun County is not immune. Educating the public about the threat of narcotics and the crimes associated with them are important. But aggressive law enforcement is required to keep our community safe and to preserve its quality of life.

Comments

OK, I can see that regardless of what’s said or what’s
presented, there’s clearly a relentless, coordinated effort
against the sheriff and all he says or does. It’s obvious that
Chapman’s roots as a former federal law enforcement officer together with the apparent fact that Yosemitesam and others
feel they were PERSONALLY impacted in some way by the sheriff has created too much animosity on their part to warrant
any rational debate. JJCoolJ is signing off for now-or at least until the agry rant subsides.


JJCOOLJ You still distort the truth. No one advised that a balanced approach across the board regarding enforcement was a bad idea, I agree with you and that is a prudent way to move forward.  However there is no balance in chapman’s approach.  He fields one, yes one investigator to handle street level enforcement.  How is this balanced? Correct… it’s not. Education? Law Enforcement Agencies nationwide, in particular in Virginia have drastically scaled back their participation in the DARE Program (DRUG ABUSE AND RESISTANCE EDUCATION)because of the lack of definitive proof that the program prevents kids from abusing drugs.  Chapman has been heard to say that he keeps this program so that he can continue to have exposure at DARE graduations to captive audiences of voting parents, free campaign time. YANKEEDOODLE….you’re correct, more personnel doesn’t mean an eradication of the heroin problem.  Yet chapman and his best buddy Richie Fiano hail from the DEA, who employed just such a philosophy over the last several decades in the “WAR ON DRUGS” which has been an total failure and largely to blame for the situation we are in concerning the local war on drugs.  We don’t expect chapman to “walk on water” largely because he would probably melt, but Loudoun Citizens expect a Sheriff who strives for perfection and in the process achieves excellence.  I’m guessing that LLCOOLJ and YANKEEDOODLE haven’t spent much time in Loudoun County.  Perhaps they arrived with chapman? Anyway, Neither sound like they have any particular affinity or statesmanship to the County or its citizens.  They serve only the Master.


I predict sheriff chapman will demand a meeting with LTM Editors and demand a retraction.  After all, one of his favorite sayings is, “I have the press under control.”  Waiting to see if there is any backbone at the LTM.


So the more LCSO deputies there are means there should be no more heroin problem huh? If only it was that simple-but, it’s not! History shows that law enforcement, community, and political leaders have tried and continue to use the put “more assets” approach toward “solving” the drug problem yet drugs and their abuse remain a prevalent part of our society. But by some of the comments I’m reading it seems Loudoun County stands alone in the country and we should expect a sheriff with “walks on water” leadership to make it all go away.


The most effective and successful counterdrug strategy, on all levels; state local,regional and federal, is one that includes enforcement, education/prevention, and treatment programs. To focus merely on drug arrests is short-sided by any interpretation.


I think a better comparison would be across the river in Frederick County, MD. This county is similar in economics and population as Loudoun. However, a big difference is that Frederick County has half the deputies that Loudoun County has, but answers more calls for service than LCSO. With the amount of deputies that LCSO has there should be no heroin problem.  What Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office does have is poor leadership.  It has become apparent to all the deputies; just look at the many recent retirements in the department. Chapman’s many failures are becoming well known in the County. Loudoun County needs a proven leader not a seasoned Federal Bureaucrat.

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