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Stopping the Flow

Law enforcement agencies in Dayton, Ohio, formed a joint task force to battle a common enemy: drug traffickers.

April 01, 2002  |  by Marcus Wynne

"CANE couldn't happen if it weren't for the support of the participating agencies and police chiefs," says Lt. Spaulding. "Money's not the problem in keeping this unit running. We get a yearly federal grant and substantial amounts in asset-seizure from drug dealers. "Manpower is the problem. Holding this unit together is hard. Some agencies think it's a great idea in the beginning of their involvement, but they pull out as soon as any sort of manpower problem develops. If the participating agencies aren't in it for the long haul, the unit will fall apart. It's up to the chiefs and the agents in charge in a given area to make sure it has the manpower to keep it going," he says.

CANE is funded by a grant from the Department of Justice through the Byrne Memorial Criminal Justice Grant Program. The grant is applied for and renewed annually. The DOJ grant funds the salaries of the uniformed K-9 officer and unit secretary, rent for the secure offices, drug buy funds, and overtime.

Each participating agency supplies at least one detective and pays for his or her salary and benefits. Day-to-day expenses are paid for with assets seized and forfeitures from drug dealers. The seized assets pay for the majority of CANE operations.

The original operational concept was for CANE to target those traffickers above street level to stop the flow of drugs to street level dealers. This tried and true and highly effective approach remains the same today.

Each major case is accomplished through lengthy undercover and surveillance operations. CANE officers operate at an extremely high level of skill when it comes to surveillance. And their court record bears this out. In 13 years of operation, CANE has never lost a case or been overturned in appeal. That's an impressive record for any organization.

"If CANE gets you, you're got, period," a local defense attorney said.

Each case may be worked for months, and there are several major cases going at any one time. On the average, 25 to 30 mid-level dealers are taken off the streets each year by CANE. While 25 to 30 might not sound like much, each one of those dealers supplies between 15 and 20 street level dealers. That works out to between 375 and 600 street dealers having their operations disrupted. When a major dealer is taken out, the numbers can be even greater.

It's immediately evident that the success of this unit hinges on the ability of its members to operate as one tight, cohesive team. While any unit will have officers that stand out, what stands out in CANE is that all the members are top-flight pros who want to be there, who live and breathe their work and go the extra mile to get the drugs off the street.

"When there's work to be done, it gets done without me saying a word," says Sgt. Bill Dillon, the unit supervisor sergeant. "These guys are here because they want to be here. They can only spend five years here, even though some of them come back here after spending time elsewhere on patrol or at the jail. For the right kind of officer, this is where it's at."

"Every day it's something different," one officer says. "Last night it's a rolling surveillance, tonight it's a raid, tomorrow we've got to go wire up a snitch and prep him. We do it all. We can do it!" We can do it.

That's the motto of the overworked, underpaid, and highly feared CANE Unit of Montgomery County, Ohio.

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