The Board of Carroll County Commissioners moved to continue the county’s participation in a statewide crime data-sharing system for a second year, and to possibly add a new position at the State’s Attorney’s Office.
In fiscal year 2019, Carroll County was selected as one of 13 sites to use the Maryland Criminal Intelligence Network — a data-sharing system that connects state-funded initiatives from various counties and cities. The network was organized to complement Gov. Larry Hogan’s measures against gang-related crimes out of Baltimore.
“It’s essentially the governor’s project to connect … so that we can share data among jurisdictions,” Carroll County State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo said at the Thursday commissioners’ meeting.
One of the biggest ways inclusion in the program benefits Carroll, he said, is by allowing law enforcement to make connections between drug dealers and users.
“We all know we don’t make the opiates here — it comes from all over,” he told the board, “and it really helps us when we get people who are selling here to see how they fit in the bigger picture, so we can dismantle certain criminal networks based in other jurisdictions.”
DeLeonardo told the board that Carroll was one of only three jurisdictions — including Baltimore city and Anne Arundel County — to receive data analysis software valued at $100,000 free of charge through the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program. The county is lucky it has “the opportunity to be a leader on this,” he said.
“Obviously it’s not because we are a high-crime area,” DeLeonardo continued. “What we do have is a lot of end users of the activity that is happening. A lot of people are using and dying from that.”
A new crime-fighting position
The grant request this year will be the same as the one for last year, including two State’s Attorney’s Office positions added for fiscal year 2019: the Senior Assistant State’s Attorney and Crime Analyst positions.
But this year the State’s Attorney’s Office is requesting to add another position, a full-time, contractual Caps Data Analyst position — which would add about $20,000 to the county’s contribution for FY2020.
The Caps Data Analyst will be able to get cellphone data from those who have overdosed and suspects with search warrants, DeLeonardo said.
If there are eight different people that overdose and they are all unrelated, DeLeonardo said, law enforcement can upload their cell information to find any connections.
“Let’s say … we find all of them were calling the same number an hour or two prior to when they overdosed,” he said. “Guess what we discovered? Someone who is most likely going to be a dealer.
“It’s an exciting program,” DeLeonardo said. “I’m always very honored the governor’s office supports our initiative on this.”
Commissioners initially expressed concern about the added costs to the county heading into a tight budget season.
“Can we take the grant without putting the new position in right now?” asked Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, “Because we are getting to the budget sessions, and that’s when we normally look at new positions and new funding.”
“I am all for this, all behind it, but this kind of takes out of step how we do things,” he said. “It’s only $20,000 — but its $20,000 from a very tight budget.”
DeLeonardo said he understood that, but that separating the new position from the grant application — which is due March 29 — would be unwise. There just isn’t enough time to wait until the budget sessions start.
“This is a really integral part as we move forward,” he said. “We’ve got to have the data input.”
“The bang that we are getting for the buck with an extra $20,000 — I can’t imagine not moving on this grant. The governor’s office is committing hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.
Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, on the other hand, said he wanted to approve the request as is.
“This is a No. 1 priority we as a society are facing,” Bouchat said. “I think it’s imperative we do include this.”
But Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, was wary and agreed with Frazier’s point.
“We are facing a really tight budget coming up,” he said. “I agree with Commissioner Frazier: We have to look at every penny here in the next year.”
“Your initiative is great,” Weaver said. “I love what you’re doing; I love where it’s going and we do need to keep fighting the opioid crisis.”
But, he said, the board needed to determine where the money would come from before approving it.
“As commissioners you have to make those decisions,” DeLeonardo said. “We can’t really submit a package without a plan to the governor’s office. If I have to go back and say we aren’t in a place to do this, they’re going to have to make a decision based on the fact that we don’t have an analyst.”
After county staff confirmed funding could come from the unassigned fund balance, the board voted to approve submission of the grant.
“This is the No. 1 priority,” said Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5. “Hard questions aren’t about quality of this position. It needs to be done, so I applaud you coming here and understanding that it is such a difficult one because we are watching our pennies right now.”