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Carbondale trustees OK staying with TRIDENT in 2016

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By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Carbondale police will continue to be part of the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team (TRIDENT) for at least the next year, following a presentation by Police Chief Gene Schilling at a work session on Tuesday evening that convinced a skeptical trustee that it was a worthwhile program for the local cops.

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Trustee Allyn Harvey, in preparing for Tuesday’s discussion of the police department’s proposed 2016 budget, had pointedly asked Schilling to prepare documents showing Carbondale’s involvement in TRIDENT, and what the results of that involvement have been.

Schilling’s statistics showed that TRIDENT, from January through September of this year, made 81 arrests, mostly in Rifle and Glenwood Springs, with one arrest in Carbondale.

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During the same period, according to the data, TRIDENT went to bat on 34 cases, again mostly in Rifle and Glenwood Springs, with only one originating in Carbondale.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of activity in Carbondale,” Harvey remarked.

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Schilling conceded the point, but said that in a number of cases the drugs involved in the arrests have been traced back to Carbondale.

According to Schilling’s statistics, TRIDENT so far this year has seized a wide range of drugs, including methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana. While most of the seizures involved relatively small amounts, the agency recorded seizures of more than two ounces of heroin valued at more than $11,500, and of more than 13 pounds of meth over the three-month period, valued at nearly $500,000.

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“I see the Task Force as an invaluable tool,” said CPD Lt. Chris Wurtsmith, who sat by Schilling at the trustee meeting and noted that Carbondale by itself does not have the money or the staff to conduct drug investigations effectively.

Harvey, who had asked for the TRIDENT information to be presented, said at one point during the meeting, “We make a big investment in TRIDENT every year, and it’s worth talking about every year.”

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Schilling agreed, but told the trustees that TRIDENT’s work has had a noticeable impact on Carbondale in human terms.

He described a time “a few years ago” when residents in a certain neighborhood, not identified, were terrified by drug dealers in their midst.

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Schilling said the drug activities were coupled with home and vehicle break-ins and other troubles, all of which were mostly eliminated following TRIDENT investigations and busts in the neighborhood.

Schilling said the Carbondale department dedicates one officer to work with TRIDENT, which is headquartered in Glenwood Springs. Other law enforcement departments participating include Glenwood Springs (which assigns one officer), Silt (no officer assigned, Rifle (one officer) and Garfield County (two deputies).

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Carbondale’s involvement, Schilling said, costs the town about $84,000 per year, of which about $82,000 is salary and benefits, and the rest is fuel and maintenance for vehicles used by that officer. The cost of the vehicle lease, Schilling reported, is covered by a federal grant.

Describing TRIDENT in general, Schilling said, “They will investigate things other than drugs, but drugs is their main priority.”

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Later in the presentation, Schilling reported that while meth continues to be a problem in the county, “Right now, the biggest thing we’re seeing (in the Carbondale area) seems to be heroin.”

In the chart of statistics, TRIDENT reported seizing just over two ounces of heroin and three syringes, valued at approximately $11,600. No information was included about where the heroin was seized.

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At the end of the TRIDENT presentation, Harvey and the other trustees described themselves as satisfied that the town should keep taking part in TRIDENT’s work, at least for now.

Overall, the proposed 2016 police budget calls for expenditures totaling $1.53 million, up slightly from the $1.46 million budgeted last year.

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In his presentation, Schilling told the trustees that particular requests include:

• $50,000 or so to buy a new vehicle to replace a 2006 Dodge Charger;

• Nearly $20,000 to pay for implementation of a new cat-control ordinance, depending on what kind of ordinance the trustees ultimately adopt;

• Approximately $8,600 to replace two hand-held radios, part of an annual replacement program Schilling has instituted to avoid having to pay a much larger, lump-sum replacement amount when the current batch of radios goes out of date;

• And $17,000 in telephone service costs, down from last year’s $34,492 — a reduction that Schilling pointed out with some satisfaction as evidence that his departmental cost-cutting measures are having a good effect.

Published in The Sopris Sun on October 22, 2015.