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St. Albans Police create plainclothes unit

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. -- St. Albans Police Lt. Marc Gilbert said he will lead a plainclothes unit into the city to notice crimes that a more visible officer might miss.

The Special Enforcement Unit will get moving sometime next month, he said. The unit is a first for the police department after many years trying to launch something like it.

The department hired Gilbert, an 18-year-member of the Kanawha County Metro Drug Unit, in December. Gilbert said he wants his officers to deal more with common criminal complaints such as drug activity calls, auto tampering calls and vandalism.

"I want to get back to a time when people in St. Albans could sit on their front porches and not have to worry about drug deals or [other crimes]," he said.

The unit is expected to start with three plainclothes officers before adding more. Two certified officers, Patrolman T.W. Barker and Patrolman J.M. Dent, have started working for the unit. A third officer was pegged to complete certification training by March.

Barker and Dent said they're eager to use their detective skills instead of the routine radio calls they've been used to.

"Hopefully we will be more proactive instead of reactive," Dent said.

Gilbert commended the two officers for volunteering their free time for the unit's first arrests last week.

On Jan. 19, the two officers allegedly made a series of controlled drug purchases at a house along Second Avenue in St. Albans.

They charged two men, Martaze Darone Davis, 21, and Demarko Earl Randle, 23, both of Detroit, with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. Randle and Davis were accused of selling Opana, a powerful and addictive prescription painkiller, Gilbert said.

On Thursday, he showed reporters two Opana needles, 19 pills and a pile of cash netted from the arrests. Davis and Randle were taken to South Central Regional Jail and later released on bail.

St. Albans Police Capt. James Agee said former Chief of Police Joe Crawford first thought of the Special Enforcement Unit in 2010. It took some time for officers to gain certification and eventually the idea fell by the wayside when Crawford retired that year.

In January 2012, Chief Mike Matthews made it his goal to revive the unit when he was appointed. City Council granted salary increases for the police department soon after and Matthews asked them to fund the unit's supervisor position.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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