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New drug task force forming in Harlan, Bell, and Knox Counties

By: Angela Sparkman Email
By: Angela Sparkman Email

HARLAN, BELL, & KNOX COUNTIES, Ky. (WYMT) - Police in Harlan, Bell, and Knox counties are forming the new Cumberland River Drug Task force to combat upper-level drug dealers.

The Harlan City Police Chief says to curb the growing drug problem, they need to go after the major suppliers.

"We will be targeting mid to upper level drug traffickers instead of the street level we have usually gone after," said Mike Thomas, Harlan Police Chief.

The Cumberland River Drug Task Force covers Harlan, Bell, and Knox Counties. It is a joint effort with local agencies, Kentucky State Police and Appalachia HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas).

County and city governments are approving the new task force to work in the area.

"There are kingpins who are not being shaken down and need to be arrested and put in jail," said Joe Grieshop, Harlan County Judge-Executive.

The Harlan County fiscal court approved joining the task force during its meeting on Thursday.

"Focus in on more of a regional approach very intensely and try to get those people out of business who are truly the dealers on a larger scale," said Grieshop.

"Crime doesn't stop because you cross a county line or a city line. A lot of times they overlap. We'll be able to work together and share information," said Thomas.

Local police departments are funding the officers and federally funded HIDTA will pay for overtime costs.

Police believe by arresting the kingpins, it will lead to less drugs on the streets for the addicts.

"It's sort of like cutting the head off the snake. You keep attacking the tail and it keeps coming back. When you cut the head off, you stop the problem," said Thomas.

The documents for the task force says it will have a close working relationship with the DEA to ensure the cases will be prosecuted in federal court.

Officers can start working in the new task force as soon as all of the local government groups involved sign the legal documents and the Attorney General approves it.

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