Thursday, September 27, 2012

What Elizabethtown is, and what Elizabethtown isn't

In the wake of yesterday's drug bust here in Elizabethtown, I have been doing some thinking about our community, what it is and what it isn't.

This was especially true after one of my Twitter followers, in the space of 140 characters, thanked me for updating the community on the situation but also said, "Sad what that area has become."

To be honest, the comment rubbed me the wrong way.

What does that mean? That Elizabethtown is a drug-infested haven where alleged heroin dealers run rampant?

Or is it a community that, when law enforcement recognizes the significant issues and impacts that alleged criminal activity and drugs has, calls in the cavalry and organizes what could be a logistical nightmare for officers from multiple local, state and federal jurisdictions, and patiently and quietly goes about its work to build a case for six months?

When I was a newspaper reporter in my hometown, I often heard local officials say it was so hard to combat drug dealing because the community was isolated and it was hard to build trust because everyone knew everyone. That, to me, was making excuses that it was too hard.

Our Elizabethtown Police Department is to be lauded for the work our officers did yesterday and in the months leading up to it. From the bottom of my heart, as a resident of this community and as a member of Borough Council, I say to each and every officer, "Thank you!" I can't wait to look you in the eye and congratulate you and thank you personally.

Let me be clear about another thing, and let's think logically about it. The borough has 11,000 residents. A fraction -- a minuscule fraction -- was arrested yesterday. And they allegedly were servicing a fraction of our community. So while the numbers seem big, and the related media attention great, let's remember that the vast majority of Elizabethtown residents have not, will not, do not and never will use or sell illegal drugs.

This incident must be a learning experience for all of us. First, we are not immune to drug problems. Police Chief Jack Mentzer said every community, big and small, faces this problem. It's just a matter of actively addressing it and not burying our heads in the sand.

We can also learn about organizations, such as Elizabetown Area Communities That Care (full disclosure: My wife is a board member) that is working hard in conjunction with other community organizations and individuals to develop effective programs to battle drug use. This includes our schools and our churches.

We have a great community. We have people who care deeply about Elizabethtown. We can hang our heads in shame about what happened yesterday, or we can stand proud knowing that it does not define who or what we are as a community.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Police arrest 17, seize drugs, guns and money

Guns, heroin and cash seized today.
NOTE: Initially, I reported the names of those arrested. Because I am an individual person and not representing a company that owns a media outlet, I decided to edit out the names but leave in other details. That said, all of this is a matter of public record and is reported in other media.

Police in Elizabethtown seized drugs and guns when they arrested 17 people today, the culmination of a six-month undercover investigation.

Officers, troopers and agents from the Elizabethtown Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police, Lancaster County Sherriff’s Department, Berks County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania State Parole and U.S. Marshalls Task Force executed twenty felony and misdemeanor warrants in the early morning hours Wednesday.

Seventeen of the warrants were for felony possession with intent to deliver illegal drugs and one was a felony retail theft charge. There were two misdemeanor drug related warrants and one bench warrant from Lancaster County Courts served as well. Most of the warrants were served in the greater Elizabethtown area. All of the individuals have either been picked up or have arrest warrants pending.

Police said troopers from the state police and Elizabethtown  conducted the undercover investigation, during which troopers and officers purchased illegal drugs from various street drug dealers.

There were also arrests stemming from the service of the arrest warrants. Those arrests were handled by the Pennsylvania State Police and the Elizabethtown Police Department and are outlined below.

In all, the police seized four weapons (three handguns and one shotgun), 771 bags of heroin and more than $1,400 in cash. Also seized were two vehicles which had been used by individuals who were dealing drugs.

Police said a team of law enforcement officers went to a residence on North Poplar Street in Elizabethtown to serve a Lancaster County Bench Warrant at about 5:30 this morning. The officers identified themselves and attempted to serve the warrant.

A 44-year-old woman intervened and attempted to thwart the efforts of the police, according to a police news release. She was arrested for aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer, obstructing administration of law or other governmental functions, terroristic threats, possession of marijuana and disorderly conduct. She allegedly grabbed a deputy sheriff and attempted to pull him backwards as he ascended a staircase and allegedly continued to aggressively fight law enforcement officers as they attempted to serve the warrant.

Also in the residence was a large dog who the woman threatened to have attack the police stating that she was going to have the dog “kill” the police officers, police said. She was arrested and taken into custody. She was arraigned before District Justice Jayne Duncan where she was released on $2,500 bail.

At approximately 5:50 a.m. officers served arrest warrants on 29-year-old man in the 2300 block of South Market Street, Elizabethtown. During the arrest, officers discovered over $1,400 in cash, three handguns, one shotgun and 211 bags of heroin, the news release reported. All of the weapons were loaded and two of the handguns and the shotgun were in bed with Phelps. Police also seized a 1999 Dodge Caravan belonging to the man.

He was charged with five felony counts of possession of heroin with intent to deliver. These offenses allegedly occurred within a school or other drug free zone. His bail was set at $100,000 cash bail, and he was committed to Lancaster County Prison. Police said that because of the events that occurred when Phelps was arrested, additional charges are pending.

At approximately 12 p.m. police, conducting an undercover drug investigation, arrested a 28-year-old woman from Columbia for felony possession of heroin with intent to deliver in the 2300 block of South Market Street, Elizabethtown. Police confiscated 560 bags of heroin. A Dodge Stratus belonging to the suspect was seized by police. She was committed to Lancaster County Prison in lieu of $50,000 bail.

The following individuals were sought on arrest warrants and have been charged as indicated:
  • A 20-year-old Elizabethtown man was charged with two felony counts of possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver. These offenses allegedly occurred within a school or other drug free zone. Bail was set at $10,000, and he was committed to Lancaster County Prison.
  • A 27-year-old Manheim man was charged with two felony counts of possession of heroin with intent to deliver. He was committed to Lancaster County Prison in lieu of $40,000 cash bail.
  • A 27-year-old Elizabethtown woman was charged with one felony count of possession of dihydrocodeinone and alprazolarm with intent to deliver. She was released on $10,000 cash bail.
  • A 20-year-old Elizabethtown man was charged with one felony count of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. In lieu of $5,000 bail, he was committed to Lancaster County Prison.
  • A 24-year-old Elizabethtown woman was charged with one felony count of possession of heroin with intent to deliver. She was committed to Lancaster County Prison in lieu of $25,000 bail.
  • A 23-year-old Elizabethtown man was charged with one felony count of possession of psilocybin, a Schedule I substance, with intent to deliver. These charges date back to an alleged incident from December 2009. He was released on $5,000 unsecured bail.
  • A 40-year-old Mount Joy man was charged with one felony count of possession of Oxycodone hydrochloride tablets with intent to deliver. He was committed to Lancaster County Prison in lieu of $10,000 bail.
  • A 34-year-old Elizabethtown man was charged with two misdemeanor counts, one for possession of marijuana and the other for possession of drug paraphernalia. McKnight was released on $500 unsecured bail.
  • A 24-year-old Palmyra woman was charged with one felony count of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver. In lieu of $25,000 bail, she was committed to Lancaster County Prison.
  • A 30-year-old Steelton woman was charged with one felony count of retail theft allegedly stemming from the theft of gas from a Turkey Hill Store in February. She was was taken into custody by Steelton Police Department and transported to Elizabethtown. She was released on $5,000 bail.
  • An 18-year-old Elizabethtown man was charged with one felony count of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. This offense allegedly occurred within a school or other drug free zone. He was released on $10,000 bail.
In addition, police have outstanding warrants for the following:
  • A 31-year-old Elizabethtown man for one felony count of possession of Dilaudid (hydomorphone hydrochloride) with intent to deliver. Police did not locate him today.
  • A 30-year-old Elizabethtown woman on two felony counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. One count was for Tramadol, a Schedule IV controlled substance, and the other for amphetamine tablets, a Schedule II controlled substance. She was not located and a warrant exists for her arrest.

Monday, September 24, 2012

How to get rid of unwanted prescription drugs in E-town

Area residents have two options to dispose of unused or expired prescription medications.

Since July, the Elizabethtown Police Department has been collecting prescription pills in an effort to combat the abuse of prescription medications. The effort is a collaboration with Elizabethtown Area Communities That Care. The CTC has assisted with public awareness of the program by purchasing and placing informational brochures in the pharmacies in the greater Elizabethtown area. (Full disclosure: My wife is a board member of CTC).

"We have collected about 30 pounds of pills since inception of the program," said police Chief Jack Mentzer, who has called the collection an unqualified success. "We get about 3 to 5 drop offs per week. For the first month or so of the program we were experiencing 2 or more drop offs per day. The drop offs range from a few leftover prescription pills to gallon sized plastic bags filled with pills."

Mentzer emphasized that the collection in Elizabethtown is for prescription pills only. It does not include liquids, creams or inhaler type containers. Simply empty the pills from the original container into a clear plastic bag for drop off at the police department 600 S. Hanover St., Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The effort by the Elizabethtown Police Department is part of the Nation Prescription Drug Take Back initiative. Eventually, the collected medications will be turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as part of their National Prescription Drug Take Back Program.

In addition, the Pennsylvania State Police will accept unwanted, expired and unused prescription drugs this Saturday, September 29, as part of DEA's National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., unwanted prescription medications may be dropped off at select state police barracks. No personal information is required for drop-off.  To find a drop-off location, visit and click on the “Public Services’’ link on the left navigation menu.

As I mentioned above, my wife is a member of Elizabethtown CTC board, and she has said board members have discussed at length the abuse of prescription medications in Elizabethtown. A news release that Mentzer issued noted that destroying medications helps prevent “Pharming Parties.” Pharming is when individuals raid medicine cabinets (usually their parents’ or grandparents’) and take handfuls of pain medicines, anti-anxiety medicines, stimulants, anti-depressants or other drugs that may be available. Sometimes they even take heart or blood pressure medicine.

Drug abuse usually involves the quickest and cheapest way to get “high,” and nothing is cheaper or easier than stealing from a parents’ or grandparents’ drug supply.

Disposing of drugs by flushing them down the toilet or or throwing them into the trash can have adverse effects on the environment. Aside from possibly damaging the treatment facilities, sewage treatment plants are not able to remove all of the chemicals and therefore drugs may make it into our waterways which enter streams, rivers, wildlife and plant life. Additional information about the disposal of prescription drugs can be found on the Food & Drug Administration's website.

The DEA coordinated the first “National Prescription Drug Take Back” in 2010. The event was very successful when state, county, municipal and federal law enforcement partnered to collect more than 120 tons of unwanted pharmaceutical controlled substances and other medication throughout the United Sates. In 2012 the event collected a record 278 tons.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Police officers move into new positions

Lt. John Emerick
Two Elizabethtown police officers moved into new positions recently and were recognized at Borough Council's meeting on Sept. 20.

As I wrote about previously, Detective John Emerick was promoted to lieutenant. He will be replacing Lt. Joe Ditzler, who is retiring in a couple of months. Emerick joined the department in 1991 and was appointed to detective in 2006.

With his promotion, that left one detective position open. At the meeting last week, police Chief Jack Mentzer announced that Officer Shane Deardorff was appointed to the post. He joined the police department as a part-time officer in 1998 and was hired full time in 1999.

Detective Shane Deardorff's wife pins his new badge on him.
Until his appointment as detective, Deardorff coordinated and organized the Field Training Officer program for the department. This is an exhaustive program that trains newly hired police officers one on one for 8 to 16 weeks. It teaches the new employee about all the details of being a police officer and everything that is expected of him or her, including talking on the police radio, learning the names of the borough's streets and learning how to handle all situations a police officer might encounter.

Mentzer said Deardorff has done an outstanding job turning the program into a model. Having trained three new police officers recently, Deardorff was recognized as the departments Officer of the Year for 2011, the second time he had received the award.

In addition, Deardorff has received a number of other awards and recognitions over the years:

  • In October 2000, he received a Commendation of Merit for outstanding police work when he arrested a drug dealer who had a half-pound of marijuana hidden in a Doritos bag.
  • In June 2002, he received a Distinguished Unit Citation for assisting with the investigation of a missing 1-year-old child, which turned into a murder investigation. His assistance led to the arrest and conviction of the child's mother.
  • In June 2003, he received a Distinguished Unit Citation for assisting with a felony traffic stop of four burglary suspects. When two of the suspects fled, Deardorff assisted in securing two of the suspects and directly contributed to three of the felons being incarcerated. The suspects had committed burglaries in Lancaster and York counties.
These are just are highlights of the achievements that Deardorff had had in his career in Elizabethtown. I think I can speak for my fellow borough councillors that we are grateful for the commitment and dedication of our police officers. Our community is fortunate to have a great department that has produced Emerick and Deardorff. If you see them on the streets in coming days and weeks, offer your congratulations.