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ABC van goes to sheriff

By Jessie Burchette

Salisbury Post

A high-tech surveillance van purchased nearly four years ago by the Rowan County Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission has been turned over to the Rowan Sheriff’s Department.

After a brief closed session, members of the Rowan/Kannapolis ABC Board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to “transfer an unused asset to another law enforcement agency” acting under rules and regulations of the U.S. Department of Justice guidelines dealing with federal forfeiture seizures.

Chairman Marny Hendrick acknowledged prior to the closed session that the discussion would be about the van, which is already in the sheriff’s department possession.

Hendrick also acknowledged that the ABC system had asked county officials for $40,000 for the van, but has dropped the request.

Hendrick and General Manager Terry Osborne made clear that they didn’t want the Post to write about the van, suggesting that the newspaper was doing a disservice to law enforcement.

“You wouldn’t put the pictures of undercover officers in the paper,” Hendrick said.

After about a five minute closed session, the board came into open session and approved the minutes of the closed session, which Hendrick had drafted prior to the closed session. The board then voted to approve the transfer.

After Hendrick read the motion about transfer of assets, he added, “That’s all I’ll ever say about that.”

Hendrick and Ken Argo were the only members at the meeting. Gus Andrews, the board’s only other member, was out of town.

The ABC system used more than $80,000 in drug-seizure funds to buy the van. The money came from the 2001 seizure near Woodleaf of a huge marijuana shipment and more than a million dollars in cash. ABC law enforcement played a major role in the seizure and got the largest chunk of dollars, nearly $400,000 from the federal program.

At the time, ABC had two law enforcement officers who actively pursued drug enforcement. Both were later hired by federal agencies.

Officials have said the van is one of about 15 in the state.

Over the past several months, ABC officials, including Osborne, complained about other agencies using the van and the extensive drain on manpower. The company writing the insurance on the van required the ABC law enforcement officer to be with the van at all times it was in use.

In June of last year, Osborne said the demand for the van by other agencies was short-circuiting ABC’s effort to focus on alcohol education and enforcement.

ABC currently has a one-man enforcement division. Earlier this year, ABC members discussed the van at length with Andrews pushing for the system to get rid of it.

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