Surrounded by high drug concentration areas, Harford County is no exception when it comes to the growing problem of illegal use and sale of drugs: it's everywhere.
With illegal drugs come other problems.
"The vast majority of crimes are driven by drugs," Captain Duane Williams, head of the Special Investigations Division and the Harford County Taskforce, told members of the Citizen's Police Academy last week.
The academy is a 15-week program designed to provide residents with a better understanding of the sheriff's office and its operations and to foster a partnership between the office and the communities it serves, according to the sheriff's office website.
From stealing items out of cars to pawn in order to buy drugs, to breaking into a home with the same goal, to robbing a pharmacy at gunpoint, crimes small and large can be traced back to drugs.
The , narcotics such as Oxycontin.
"It is taking the country by storm, it's everywhere," Williams said of prescription drug abuse.
He estimated that out of the numerous tips the drug taskforce receives, three out of every four pertain to pharmaceuticals.
In 2009 and 2010, the taskforce seized less than 1,000 opioid drugs, or pills. with the taskforce seizing about 6,000.
"We weren't ready for it to explode the way it did," Williams said.
Williams said the taskforce is seizing more prescription medications because they are the most commonly abused in the county at this time, and because now that investigators are aware of the problem, they are looking for it.
He said the appeal of these drugs is that using them gives the same high as heroin. The drugs can also be as easy to get as peeking into grandma's medicine cabinet or visiting the doctor.
As opposed to heroin or other illegal drugs, which can be tampered with or mixed with dangerous substances, prescription medications are regulated by the government.
Williams said a group of investigators with the taskforce now focuses primarily on prescription narcotics investigations.
"There's more work than they know what to do with," Williams said, later adding, "you can only do so many investigations and do them well."
Williams said the number of investigations conducted by the taskforce has decreased while the number of arrests has increased during the past two years. He credited this shift to the additional wiretaps and a focus on organizations.
In 2011, the taskforce conducted more than 120 investigations and made more than 160 arrests. In 2010, the taskforce conducted fewer than 120 investigations and fewer than 140 arrests and in 2009, conducted more than 140 investigations and made more than 160 arrests, according to Williams.
The average prescription drug abuser ranges from age 18 to 25, however, there are also those of all ages who abuse prescription drugs.
"Pharmaceuticals are really ones that cross everything; gender, ages," Williams said.
Williams said despite the growing problem, the taskforce is making strides. Williams said that for the past seven years, the taskforce has been top in the state based on performance, seizures and other factors.
"We consistently are out-performing a lot of the taskforces in the area," Williams said.
Last year, . With the designation comes additional resources and federal dollars to help address drug issues in the county.
"I-95 is a drug trafficking corridor," Williams said. "Geographically, we fit into the puzzle."
Williams said that in addition to location, the overall problem, number of arrests, presence of gangs in the area and number of overdose deaths contributed to Harford becoming part of a HIDTA region.