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Full-time drug investigator in works for Mt. Lebanon

| Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Mt. Lebanon officials plan to hire a full-time police investigator to focus on narcotics cases for the first time in the municipality's history.

Commissioners agreed during a meeting this week about the community's 2014 budget to add $127,000 for a fifth member of the police department's investigative division. The $45.1 million spending plan includes no tax increase.

The officer in the position would be dedicated full-time to drug investigations, and this also would be the first time in 12 years that the police department had five investigators.

Police Chief Coleman McDonough said a full-time drug investigator would be able to cultivate informants, debrief suspects and dig up information about drugs in the community.

Currently, one of the four investigators works drug cases part-time while handling other cases, said Lt. Aaron Lauth.

“We've had people die from (drug overdoses),” Commissioner Kelly Fraasch said. “If we had somebody to follow up on some of those cases, we could catch some of the people responsible for the drug use.”

Fraasch is a member of SAFE Lebo, a new effort to reduce drug abuse and educate residents about prevention. Adding police manpower will help show the municipality's commitment, she said.

Following four fatal heroin overdoses in late 2012 and early 2013, SAFE Lebo was formed to tackle the problem of heroin — and its frequent gateway, prescription drug abuse.

Neither the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office nor the county's Chiefs of Police Association knew how many other suburban Pittsburgh police departments have full-time drug investigators.

Commissioners' support for adding a detective was unanimous on Monday. The department likely would give the job to a current detective or patrol officer, then hire a new officer in January to fill the vacancy, Lauth said.

The money will come from about $160,000 in budget cuts. Instead of the municipality buying street furniture, businesses will donate them. The municipality will not enact a proposed recycling reward program. Bids for a trash collection contract came in lower than anticipated.

Commissioners also discussed installing artificial turf at Wildcat and Middle fields, a pair of baseball/softball diamonds along Cedar Boulevard with overlapping outfields, a project expected to cost $1 million..

Outside groups, such as sports teams or the school district, would be required to provide $250,000. The municipality would be responsible for $750,000, with officials expected to tap into money left over from previous years' budgets.

Athletics groups would have side aside money each year for replacement turf. The school district would maintain the field in exchange for using it.

Also, Mt. Lebanon will spend $11,800 for a second aerial deer population survey to compare the number of deer to last year's survey, and educate residents on how to deal with deer and avoid car accidents. No money will be spent to cull the population.

Commissioners could not agree on how the deer population would be controlled if they used Mt. Lebanon's cash reserves to pay for a program later. Commissioner Dave Brumfield said the state Game Commission hadn't studied alternatives to sharpshooting, such as sterilization or birth-control programs.

The commission plans to vote Nov. 25 on amendments to the 2014 budget.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He canbe reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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