(Debra Cassens Weiss) A nonprofit group formed by business leaders in Altoona, Pennsylvania, has funded a drug prosecutor and police efforts to fight the drug trade.
The nonprofit, Operation Our Town, and the drug-busting operations it funds are drawing some critics, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. They argue the group is funding police tactics that turn drug users into informants, and other users into drug dealers, the Pittsburg Post-Gazette reports in a separate story.
Altoona uses so many informants, one informant told the newspaper, that the joke is that the city’s new name is “Al-tell-on-ya.”
Operation Our Town has received more than $2 million in donations in its eight-year existence, and typically more than half of the money goes to the Blair County District Attorney’s office, the story says. The money covers the salary of a prosecutor hired for drug cases, as well as support staff.
The DA also uses the money to help the police department buy equipment and pay for police overtime.
One informant, 27-year-old Juniper Eugene Robbins of Altoona, told the Post-Gazette that he made about 20 drug purchases while working undercover. “I picked certain people based on crap they did to me or my friends,” Robbins told the newspaper. “I didn’t want to take anybody big down,” he said, because he feared retaliation.
According to the story, it was common for crime victims to hire prosecutors in the 1800s, but the idea has lost favor.
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