Pd Withdraws From Drug Task Force

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Two more officers have joined the Payson Police Department not due to a hiring trend, but because they're returning to the department from their assignments with the Gila County Narcotics Task Force.

Officers John Huffman and Matt Van Camp are settling into their new offices this week at the police station.

"It's not a negative thing," Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner said. "We're not pulling out of the task force because of any issues there. They just have a little bit of a different mission than we do. They're responsible for the whole county.

"Right now, what I need is to concentrate our enforcement efforts on our local methamphetamine problem," he said.

Statistics from the police department's annual report show that the number of burglaries committed in Payson has risen drastically over the past year. The reason, they say, is the area's growing meth problem.

The Gila County Narcotics Task Force in 2000 made 312 drug arrests an increase of 192 over the previous year and seized 686.26 grams of methamphetamines.

With the return of the two officers, Gartner said the department will create two positions for special enforcement officers two officers who will be doing task force work for the department. The special enforcement officers will be assigned to a three- or four-year tour of duty.

"They'll work primarily night, in plain clothes," the chief said. "They'll have a strong emphasis on drug and narcotic enforcement. But, they'll also have a strong emphasis on other kinds of investigations, like follow up investigations of officers on patrol."

Even though the department has withdrawn from the task force, Gartner said the general public won't see any difference.

There are 16 patrol officers and two patrol sergeants working Payson streets, and there are 50 department volunteers, 28 of whom are patrol certified.

"We'll be a little bit more aggressive in our community, and we'll also concentrate more on repeat offenders," the chief said.

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