The Asheville Police Department is joining the Buncombe County Anti-Crime Team, Chief Bill Hogan and Sheriff Van Duncan announced July 7. In 2004, the APD pulled out of the Metropolitan Enforcement Group, a joint antidrug task force involving the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department and other local law-enforcement agencies. At the time, APD officials said that concentrating on the city’s own drug problem would be a better use of those resources.
But times change, and the city is now coming on board with MEG’s successor.
“We work together in a loose fashion, but it’s good to have these formal agreements where you work day by day,” noted Hogan. “You get more cooperation, you get the communication flow; it makes for a more efficient operation. We have more opportunities to share our expertise, our resources and our information with each other.”
Three APD officers are now assigned to BCAT. The partnership also includes the Black Mountain and Woodfin police departments as well as the State Bureau of Investigation.
“We’re really happy that the Asheville police are coming back to this task force,” said Duncan. “The design of this is to make a seamless effort, because many times these investigations will cross jurisdictional lines.”
He added that the partnership “makes sure everyone knows where everybody is during these investigations.”
BCAT differs from MEG in a number of ways: It doesn’t just focus on narcotics, and it also involves smaller municipalities.
“It takes a broader perspective,” said Hogan. “Drugs are still important, but it deals with a host of major crimes.”
The task force, added Duncan, enables small towns to undertake covert investigations that would otherwise be difficult, “because most of their police officers are known.” In the past few months, he noted, it has played a role in “numerous drug seizures in Woodfin and Black Mountain.”
There’s even a potential financial benefit, said the sheriff. “It also helps that those small towns, from the seizure of property and assets, can get some return on what they put forth to fund these operations.”