ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The Belmont County Drug Task Force took another step forward this week in its quest to tackle through a collaborative effot the area's ongoing problem involving illegal drug activity.
On Wednesday, a Belmont County grand jury handed down criminal indictments against 14 individuals. Of those individuals facing new felony charges, eight of the defendants were secretly indicted on drug trafficking charges as a result of cases stemming from the work of the Belmont County Drug Task Force.
Following the grand jury session, law enforcement agents rounded up most of those individuals, giving them service on the new charges. Six of the eight individuals indicted were arrested, booked and served with copies of the indictments.
Two additional individuals were secretly indicted on felony drug charges this week. They are expected to be served before next next, when all of those defendants are scheduled to be arraigned in Belmont County Common Pleas Court.
The Belmont County Drug Task Force is a collaborative effort between the local law enforcement agencies in the county. Participants in the task force include police departments of Barnesville, Bellaire, Bethesda, Belmont, Bridgeport, Martins Ferry, Powhatan Point, Shadyside and St. Clairsville, as well as the Belmont County Sheriff's Office and Prosecutor's Office.
Earlier this week, Belmont County Prosecutor Chris Berhalter gathered with area police officials to announce that grant money had been received to help support the growing program, which was established in 2007. The Edward G. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant is paid quarterly to each of the nine departments that participate in the task force.
Officials said that every bit of money made available for the effort helps the task force continue its work toward one collaborative objective - pooling their resources to get illegal drugs and drug dealers off the area streets.
"The Drug Task Force continues to work very hard to attack this problem," said Berhalter. "These arrests show that these efforts are working."
Earlier this year, the task force established a tip line, which members of the general public can use to help law enforcement agents to initiate investigations. Messages can be left anonymously to the tip line, which can be reached 24 hours a day at (740) 359-TASK.
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