The state would save millions by using established task forces to provide homeland security, an official said.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Top narcotics enforcement officials from across the state have banded together in an effort to share resources and offer their staffs to perform homeland defense against terrorism.
David Allen, commander of the Mahoning Valley Drug Task Force, has been selected to head up the group.
Allen said the new Ohio Task Force Commanders Association represents commanders and deputy commanders of 34 drug and law enforcement task forces in 50 counties. The coalition will strengthen the groups' investigation, arrest and prosecution powers involving violations of drug, weapons and organized crime laws, he said.
Fighting terrorism: Allen said the group also seeks to become involved in homeland defense.
An already established statewide network of task forces, their intelligence information, technological resources and their bank of informants could provide a cornerstone for any homeland defense program, Allen said.
Using task force systems already in place, he added, would save the state millions over creating a new organization.
"If they are going to do homeland defense, they should probably be talking to us," Allen said, referring to state lawmakers. "Why reinvent the wheel?"
Further, Allen said, drug task force officials have long been supporters of tightening border security.
The association is made up of a board of directors of four officers and four district representatives, elected by the group. Each task force pays a $300 fee annually for administrative costs.
Lobbying for laws: Allen said the new coalition would become the strong voice at the state Legislature, working for laws that would help beef up enforcement of drug, weapons and organized crime violations.
The groups already support one other, Allen said, passing along information about drugs surfacing in the area and sharing knowledge about new substances.
The association will now participate in power buying agreements to save the state money on supplies and equipment. Groups may combine resources as the state fund that finances task forces loses $2 million. Allen expects that groups will become larger, evolving into "metro drug units," with some smaller task forces combining and others picking up communities that are not yet part of such a force.
Creating such metropolitan-area units, Allen said, would be even more vital if the task forces become involved in homeland security.