Harford County Sheriff Jesse Bane spent longer than a half-hour Wednesday morning on WAMD 970 AM discussing the induction of Harford County into the Washington/Baltimore High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) by the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
During the wide-ranging interview with WAMD radio host Maynard Edwards, Bane discussed the pros and cons of the HIDTA designation before answering questions about the status of gangs in Edgewood, his position on the legalization of drugs, and how he feels about marijuana.
A few of Maynard’s questions and Bane’s answers are listed below, but you can listen to the full interview WAMD interview here.
What is HIDTA?
“HIDTA is not something that focuses just on local drug issues; it focuses on mid- and upper-level dealers and impacting those who are involved in money-laundering operations. It’s something that’s done on a much bigger scale than we’ve been able to do here at a local level.”
What are the positives of HIDTA?
“If we’re going to be successful in keeping Harford County as drug-free as we possibly can, we cannot focus just on the local drug dealer who’s dealing off the street. We have to deal with those people who have set up operations in Harford County where they are supplying drugs not just to Harford County but to the state and the nation.”
What is the drug scene like in Harford County?
“I don’t know that you could go to any community in Harford County and not find some type of an influence as a result of drugs in the community or in close proximity to the community. Show me a place where there are no drugs, and I might be interested in moving there myself. We all want to live in a drug-free environment, we don’t create a drug-free environment by hiding our heads in the sand and pretending it’s not there. IF you look at the wiretaps we’ve done in the last 2 or 3 years, a lot of those investigations at are focused not in the Edgewood and Joppa and Route 40 areas of the county, they’re in the northern sectors of the county – Bel Air, Abingdon and even further north.
“If I’m going to deal with just the local drug dealer, we’re never going to get anywhere with the drug problem in Harford County.”
What specific resources will this bring to Harford County?
“It’s a sharing of resources and an influx of resources into our county that we did not have access to before. It is an infusion of cash from the federal government to assist us in our operations.”
“It is very expensive to do a major drug investigation, it requires a lot of resources and technology, it does require a lot of money and it requires a lot of man-hours.”
“Harford County is not the wealthy county that if it finds out that a person supplying cocaine or heroin or prescription drugs is someone who is from another jurisdiction in Maryland or outside of Maryland, we don’t’ have the resources to chase people all over the country to break up that operation.”
Do we really have that bad of a drug problem in Harford County?
“I think one of the things that’s most alarming right now, that I don’t think people have really recognized the impact of it, is that Harford now ranks number 3 in the state of Maryland in terms of drug overdose deaths. We have 25 overdose deaths last year. That was a record for Harford County.”
Will this negatively impact property values in Harford County?
“Let’s look at it this way, let’s look at the jurisdictions that belong to the HIDTA region in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. Let’s look at Anne Arundel County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, the wealthier jurisdictions that ring the Washington D.C. area. Some of the highest property values in the state, are located in those areas and those are areas that people do like to move to because of the quality of life and other things. I understand where people are coming from when they have those kinds of fears, but if that were the case we’d have one massive, depressed, high-crime, murder capital that extended from Baltimore to Washington D.C. and it would be a desolated, deserted area. It is one of the wealthiest areas, if not the wealthiest area, in the country and property areas have not been affected by that.”
What remains the largest challenge in Edgewood area?
“We still need to keep our finger on the gang issue there. If we walk away from that believing we solved the problem # 1 we’re kidding ourselves and #2 we’re going to fall right back to the situation we were in when I first took office where every 2 or 3 months we were getting a homicide in that area.”
“We still have gangs in the county and we still have gangs in that area. And it still is a hotspot for gang activity, because of what the environment affords the gang element, but again we pretty much have that under control at least to the point where they’re not killing and stabbing each other every day.”
What are the challenges in Aberdeen?
“Aberdeen, that community is much calmer than it used to be because Aberdeen has done a good job combating its gang problem.”
What about Joppatowne?
“You don’t have a lot of rental properties in Joppa, and I think that’s the difference when you start looking at the Route 40 corridor. The communities where we experience the most of our problems are the communities where there are rentals, particularly absentee landlords – who really are nothing more than slum landlords, just interested in getting money out of the rental properties. Those are the communities where we are having the problems.”
Why not just legalize drugs?
“I have given a lot of thought to that over the years, because this is an issue that isn’t going to go away and you are going to have proponents and opponents to the issue. My biggest issue, I think, is suppose we do that and we find it doesn’t give us the results we want. We’ve now let the genie out of the bottle and you can’t put the genie back in the bottle if that were to occur.”
What’s your stance on marijuana?
“I would not want to be driving in a car going down the road while the operator of another vehicle just finished smoking marijuana. It does affect your body and your ability to react to emergency situations that may occur on the roadway.”
Other notable quotes:
– “That’s another thing we need to emphasize here, this drug issue is not just a crime issue, it’s a health issue in Harford County. If you were to go to the Harford County Detention Center and assess the population, you would find that more than 60 percent of the population in there is in there because they’ve been arrested for crimes involving drugs or they are addicted.”
– “There’s one we just did with prescription drugs that took us to Florida. That was where a lot of the prescription drugs in Harford County were coming from – West Florida – as a result of the medical profession down there and the ease of access to prescription drugs.”
– “There are communities that deal with that very issue through their livability codes and in some communities they even seize properties form landlords after so many calls for service, whether it be someone from Highways, someone from the Health Department, or someone from the local police department. We don’t’ have that type of a livability code in Harford County, we have a livability code and some things we can enforce, but that livability code and what we’re enforcing is what was good for Harford County 30, 40, 50 years ago. That is not Harford County today. So I’d say our livability code, from what we can do to maintain order in those types of dwellings, is not what it should be.”