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Another City Joins Drug Fight : Law enforcement: Narcotics unit to become part of LA IMPACT, a countywide task force that operates against drug traffickers.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The West Covina Police Department’s narcotics unit has joined forces with a countywide law enforcement task force to combat the burgeoning drug problem.

The City Council on Tuesday passed a resolution agreeing to participate in the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force, or LA IMPACT.

West Covina Police Chief Ron Holmes said the city’s narcotics unit, called the Special Enforcement Team, will operate as usual, except it will not share information on cases with other agencies via computer.

Explaining the need for the change, he said: “There was no central (organization). You had cops chasing cops.”

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The countywide task force consists of officers from 42 police agencies in the county, the Sheriff’s Department and the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement. Formal operations began July 1, with groups--each consisting of a lieutenant, two sergeants and 20 officers and staff--in the north, west and east sections of the county, said El Segundo Police Capt. Tim Grimmond, LA IMPACT’s project manager.

Almost four years ago, a kilo of cocaine had a wholesale price tag of between $45,000 and $60,000 in the county, Grimmond said. Today, a kilo sells for only about $11,000, helping to escalate street sales, he said.

Alarmed about the drug trade, authorities held a summit in January that led to the formation of LA IMPACT. The program is patterned after the 5-year-old Orange County Regional Narcotics Suppression Program, the first in the nation.

“We want to make it difficult so (drug traffickers) will move somewhere else,” Grimmond said.

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Participating police chiefs have already contributed to LA IMPACT a combined $500,000 in funds from their budgets and from monies received in drug raids in their areas. They have pledged an annual $6 million for the program, which received $888,000 in federal funds for the 1991-92 fiscal year, and which will get an estimated $725,000 for 1992-93.

Since July 1, the task force has arrested 56 people, seized 278 kilos of cocaine, 90 kilos of marijuana, 37 pounds of methamphetamines, 140 grams of heroin, 43 weapons, and confiscated $2.5 million, Grimmond said.

“We’ve taken a lot of dope out of the community,” said Whittier Police Chief Brad Hoover, LA IMPACT’s chairman of the board. “Each police chief can say it’s a much more intelligent way to work narcotics than working alone.”

About 80% of the confiscated money will be used to finance the new task force, Grimmond said, adding that a percentage will be given to participating cities to offset personnel and equipment costs. If the program is successful, it will eventually pay for itself, he said.

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The money can only be used for law enforcement and not to replace current city funding.

The war on drugs is nothing new to West Covina. It was one of the first cities in the nation to benefit from the federal asset-seizure program, which allows local agencies to claim money and property for narcotics investigations.

In February, at a ceremony in Anaheim, U.S. Customs and IRS officials presented the West Covina Police Department with $3.4 million as its share from drug and money laundering investigations in 1989 and 1990.

The department received the second-largest share of seized assets in the state. Orange County was first, with $7 million.

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