ELKTON — In the few years Sgt. Lynette Campbell has been an officer with the Elkton Police Department, arrests for drug possession and distribution have increased exponentially.
Every month, the department releases a police report to town staff detailing the number of arrests made. Between January and April, drug possession and distribution was the fourth most common category of crime for which arrests were made.
“In the last couple of days, we’ve had three drug arrests,” Campbell told Town Council members during Monday’s meeting.
“The trend has been increasing since I’ve been here,” she said. “We are seeing more fentanyl and dangerous drugs.”
Police reports and arrest logs aren’t commonly discussed during Elkton’s work sessions or council meetings, but were brought up to advocate for money to purchase a police drug dog in the proposed fiscal year 2021-22 budget.
“The need is immense,” Campbell said.
The discussion took place nearly 30 minutes before a public hearing was set to take place on the proposed $16.8 million budget for FY22, which includes $808,886 for the town’s police department.
Town Manager Greg Lunsford said the police department budget includes four additions — a new full-time officer, a new patrol car, a Kubota all-terrain vehicle and a drug dog that will bite on command.
The cost of the drug dog is estimated to be $15,000, Lunsford said.
Lunsford said the town is still researching whether a full-time drug dog is needed in Elkton, but stated there have been instances when a drug dog was needed and Elkton officers had to call for assistance from the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office.
Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson told the Daily News-Record in May that the county has two dogs trained to search for narcotics.
With only two dogs, they are not available most of the time Elkton officers need them, Campbell said.
“We don’t have it when we need it 75% of the time,” she said.
Elkton Police Chief David Harris told council members that a drug dog would be a “great asset to the community.”
If the town purchases a drug dog, Campbell said it will be trained with officer Craig Lam.
On June 21, council will vote on its proposed budget, which includes increases in the electric rate, water and sewer rates, and trash collection fee. There are no tax increases in the budget.
A public hearing was held Monday on the proposed utility fee increases, but no comments were received.
The town is looking to increase water and sewer rates by 4%.
For residential water use, the base rate will increase from $11.66 to $12.13. Usage over 2,000 gallons will increase from $3.81 to $3.96.
Residential sewer usage is projected to increase from $25.83 to $26.86, with those using more than 2,000 gallons seeing an increase from $7.77 to $8.06.
The base rate for commercial water users will be raised to $12.14. Commercial users using more than 2,000 gallons will see an increase from $3.81 to $3.96.
Commercial sewer rates will increase from $25.84 to $26.86.
Industrial water rates will also increase, with users expected to see a 47 cent hike in their bills if remaining within the base rate. If over 2,000 gallons, the price will increase from $8.71 to $9.06.
The town’s electric rate is proposed to increase for residential and small commercial users from $5.50 to $9.50 a month, while commercial and large commercial users will see their bills increase by $5.
The trash collection will increase by 50 cents per household per month for residential customers. Commercial customers will see an increase of $1.
If approved, the rate increases take effect July 1, along with the budget.