Commissioners vote to dissolve Mitchell Co. Drug Squad - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Commissioners vote to dissolve Mitchell Drug Squad

By Christian Jennings - bio | email

MITCHELL COUNTY, GA (WALB) - Mitchell County's drug task force will cease operations July 31st.

Tuesday night the county commission voted 4 to 1 to do away with the squad that's been putting drug dealers in jail for 18 years.

Commissioners say they're looking for ways to save money. But some law enforcers and concerned citizens don't like the decision.

Mitchell county Commissioner Buddy Snipes made the motion to dissolve the drug task force. He says partly because of financial constraints and partly because the drug squad and local law enforcement haven't really worked well as a team. But law enforcers in Pelham and Camilla told us they need the drug squad.

And some residents say they aren't comfortable knowing they'll no longer have a separate agency devoted to fighting drugs.

As a result of Tuesday night's county commission meeting, on July 31st, Mitchell county's drug task force will come to an end.

"I made the motion and I'm like this. We have city police, sheriff's department, and a drug squad. They're like a ball team. If they don't work together nothing goes well," says Snipes.

He says the drug squad doesn't operate efficiently.

"Times are tough, we can't support everything going on," says Snipes.

He also says the board's decision was based on economic reasons.

When the Southwest Georgia drug task force was originally created it received funding from Calhoun, Baker, Grady, and Mitchell counties. It also received yearly grants.

Over the years other counties have dropped out, leaving Mitchell county with the bill.

"There's no grant money available to operate a single county drug squad," he says.

But eliminating the county's drug squad puts the pressure on the Sheriff's office, and Camilla and Pelham police departments to handle all drug cases. Representatives with Camilla and Pelham police departments wouldn't talk on camera, but several law enforcers told us off camera, they need the task force. And with a new burden on their hands they'll likely have to hire and train new people to work drugs.

A cost that will fall on the taxpayer.

"I wish they could find funds somewhere." Betty Adams lives in Pelham and wants the drug task force to stay afloat.

She's noticed a recent spike in crime. And feels it stems from drugs.

"They cause a lot of other crimes, break-ins, burglaries, and robberies," she says.

She says without the drug task force, she doesn't feel safe.

"I hate it. Everyone is stretched thin. Law enforcement does the best job they can, but to put a bigger burden on them now? I just hope they'll be able to do their job," says Adams.

We spoke with Commissioner Keith Jones on the phone who voted against last night's movement to abolish the task force.

He has a background in law enforcement, and says he feels the decision was made too quickly.

He says having to hire and train new personnel in the city and county departments will cost taxpayers more than the task force and will create a serious safety issue.

The Mitchell county commission and the Sheriff are involved in a lawsuit right now to determine whether the drug task force was lawfully formed.

The county attorney says they are still trying to resolve this issue to protect cases in which the drug squad was involved.

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