BERWICK - A former Berwick police officer was arrested Friday on charges he stole evidence from the department to support a drug habit, in which he allegedly stole more than 800 packets of heroin from police at one time.

Christian Wilson, 30, of 919 Monroe St., Berwick, an officer until his resignation on July 16, was charged by agents from the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, with four counts of theft and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

He was arraigned Friday before Magisterial District Judge Marvin K. Shrawder of Danville, and released on $10,000 unsecured bail. Wilson is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 24.

According to a Berwick Police Department release, the investigation began in March when members of the Berwick Police Department's Special Operations Group gathered credible and corroborating information that Wilson was using heroin. Columbia County District Attorney Thomas E. Leipold was briefed on the situation and requested that the Attorney General's office take over the investigation.

As it was going on, Police Chief Ken Strish reviewed video surveillance footage from the police station which showed on four occasions, Wilson took a package of hypodermic needles from the station. The needles were evidence collected from a search of a methamphetamine laboratory investigation and were being stored at the station's laboratory while waiting to be transported to the Berwick Hospital for processing or destruction.

On July 16, agents interviewed Wilson at the police department. He told the agents that he has been fighting a heroin addiction for the past two years, and was attempting to receive treatment but was unsuccessful. He admitted to taking the needles and use them to inject heroin.

He gave agents consent to search his vehicle and home. In his residence, agents located an empty Berwick Police evidence envelope, which at one time contained 831 packets of suspected heroin. Wilson admitted to agents that he took the envelope from another officer's desk drawer and used all of the packets himself.

Police say the evidence envelope was left unsecured in an officer's desk after it was picked up from the Pennsylvania State Police Crime Laboratory, where it was examined. The officer responsible for leaving the envelope unsecured violated policy and procedure and was disciplined. Wilson resigned from the department that day.

Berwick police feel the theft of evidence is an isolated incident, but noted that the investigation is continuing and will not be complete until all evidence has been inventoried and accounted for.