New drug team prosecutor introduced

Published 4:42 pm Saturday, February 19, 2005

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS - Cass County commissioners on Thursday met Judith Baxter, the drug prosecutor funded by the millage voters approved last August to expand the narcotics team operated jointly by the county and the City of Dowagiac.
Prosecutor Victor Fitz, who introduced her to the Board of Commissioners, said Baxter "comes to us with 20 years as a lawyer and 10 years as a drug prosecutor" in the Grand Rapids area.
"She's already been very active" because of the aggressive pursuit of cases since the unit set up shop in January, Fitz said.
Sheriff Joe Underwood provided commissioners with a 45-day report of the drug team's initial flurry of activities.
We've had overwhelming results," with the arrests of 21 people on 57 charges related to drug activities - possession or delivery of methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin and operating a meth lab.
On the education side, the sheriff reported that officers have worked with Boy Scouts and fire departments. "We have some additional ones scheduled. We've also had some training with Woodlands mental health personnel. We'll be doing more going forward. I just wanted to thank commissioners for having foresight and giving us the tools to start up the process. It's our goal to provide you with quarterly reports."
Property that the team confiscates "will either be sold at auction or destroyed," Underwood told Vice Chairman Ron Francis, R-Cassopolis. "If it's a handgun, that would be destroyed by the State of Michigan. Vehicles, tools or property we can't identity an owner with will be sold at auction."
Commissioner Terri Kitchen, R-Silver Creek Township, praised the team for accomplishing so much in so short a time, "but I'm a little concerned about jail capacity."
Underwood pointed out that the enlarged drug team "is truly a partnership between law enforcement and the community of Cass County. Citizens have responded overwhelmingly with their tips and their support."
County Administrator Terry Proctor added that once forfeitures are completed and property belongs to the County of Cass, contrary to the past, "large, beautiful homes and large, beautiful cars" are not what are being seized.