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National Guard officer joins Putnam drug task force

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The drug task force with the Putnam County Sheriff's Department now has an officer who will better organize drug enforcement activity throughout the county, the sheriff said.

An intelligence analyst with the National Guard Counter Drug Program began working with the department last month, Sheriff Steve Deweese said. 

Todd Lowe, who also is a St. Albans police officer and a former member of the Metro Drug Enforcement Network Team in Kanawha County, began working Jan. 1 in Putnam County.

"I'll be able to take different aspects of a case and try to help build it to find out information," Lowe said.

The National Guard Counter Drug Program provides military support for local, state and federal law enforcement, according to its website.

"The military has some specialized assets to use on cases which can help [Putnam] out," Lowe said.

That includes "night vision goggles [and] high-tech cameras," which could be a way to "take pictures of a suspect or a site where someone was dealing drugs."

Lowe's job will be to take collected intelligence from around the county and put it together to see an overview of drug activity at different residences and on different streets, according to Deweese.

"Also, he'll put together all of the documents from a crime scene to be used for court documents in the future," Deweese said. 

The county is dealing with a rise in heroin use, police have said, along with the prescription drug epidemic. Deweese, who took office in January, vowed to ramp up the county's drug task force during his campaign. 

Deweese, a longtime National Guard member, believes his contacts with the Guard helped bring Lowe to the department, and the county's designation as a "High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area" also helped.

That designation allows counties to be involved in a program that's meant to enhance and coordinate drug control efforts among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The National Guard pays Lowe's salary, Deweese said. Some of the money comes from the West Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Forfeiture Fund. Deweese said he's still working out details about how Putnam will be required to contribute to the forfeiture program.

"Normally, once you do a forfeiture, for instance, go into a house and collect $10,000, it's broken down by the percentage of officers assigned to that department.

"If [we] have four officers, 80 percent goes to us and 10 percent would go to the Guard and another 10 percent might go to another agency," he said.

Deweese also has recruited a federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent to assist the drug task force and he plans to add more. An officer from the Hurricane Police Department will join the task force, too, he said.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1254.


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