News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 23, 2011

Vigo council OKs adding deputy to drug task force

Salary, payroll tax to be reimbursed by feds

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The addition of a Vigo County sheriff’s deputy to a federal task force adds “a big picture component” to the task of combating drug trafficking, said Vigo County Sheriff Greg Ewing.

The Vigo County Council Tuesday approved a budget line item to pay funds up front to cover costs for sheriff Detective Paul Hartzler to be a member of the Wabash Valley Safe Streets Task Force, overseen by the FBI.

The county this year will pay $22,000 for overtime salary plus $1,683 in federal payroll tax, to be reimbursed by the FBI.

“Joined with the FBI, it provides a federal level and a whole host of resources that the federal government has, such as money for doing larger [drug] buys,” Ewing said. “The Safe Street Initiative is geared toward the large [drug] dealers. This allows us to work on a larger scale.

“As the Vigo County Drug Task Force identifies people, this allows us to start to follow the trail backward. Where is that dope coming into Vigo County? Is it coming from Chicago, St. Louis or Mexico? This is just another layer up,” Ewing said.

The FBI began the Safe Streets Violent Crimes Initiative in 1992, enabling the agency to form FBI-sponsored task forces nationwide against drug enterprises and organized crime.

Hartzler has been assigned to the Wabash Valley Safe Streets Task Force to identify and target criminal enterprise groups for drug trafficking, money laundering, crimes of violence, robbery and fugitive apprehension. In addition to the county, state police and the Terre Haute City Police Department each have officers assigned to the task force, Ewing said.

The task force is headed by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney General.

Task force members are deputized as a special deputy with the U.S. Marshal’s Service and have federal law enforcement authority until the end of their assignment.

The FBI will supply a vehicle and gasoline to each task force member for official business. The FBI will also pay overtime for officers assigned to the task force. The FBI is to be responsible for processing assets seized as part of the task force and those assets may be equitably shared with participating agencies of the task force.

In other business, the County Council gave preliminary approval for real and personal property tax abatement for Danisco; approved $45,000 for salary for a yet unfilled position of E911 Dispatch Director; and voted to fill a vacant nurse position at the Vigo County Health Department for about $31,000. The council voted to allow all budgeted nursing positions to be filled immediately by the health department in the future should vacancies occur.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@