Officials: drug cases on rise
Even though law enforcement officials are policing the area harder than ever, the number of felony cases made in 2011 increased by 106 – a fact Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said was primarily caused by an increase in drug activity and even violent crimes this past year.
At the end of every year, Rushing said he tallies up the number of felony cases turned into his office for prosecution to get an idea of how the crime in the county is broken down and whether or not crime is on the rise or is declining.
After 2011 came to a close, Rushing said he thought felony cases would be on the decline after they peaked at a high of 400 cases in 2010, but he said he was shocked to see the number had actually risen to 506 cases in 2011.
“We had a high number of felony cases turned in to our office in 2010 and a lot of those were meth-related cases, so I thought the number of felonies for this past year would go down since so many of those committing meth-related crimes had been gotten off the street, but the number went up by 106 cases,” Rushing said.
“This tells me that despite the great job our law enforcement officers are doing, drug activity still seems to be on the rise.”
Franklin County Sheriff Shannon Oliver said the county was no doubt facing a drug problem.
“It seems like every time we turn around we’re getting a report about a meth lab or someone buying precursor chemicals to manufacture it,” he said. “People just aren’t understanding how terrible this drug is and how deadly it can be and they just keep getting involved with it.”
Oliver said they have several new policies and ideas in place to step up their surveillance of drug activity and other criminal activities in the county.
“We now have people designated to follow up on any complaints we receive about suspected drug activity such as meth labs, drug buys and other incidents,” Oliver said. “We are trying to be as proactive as possible in making sure that we get these people off the streets.
“Hopefully if the numbers for felony cases for 2012 end up being even higher, it will be because we caught all the people responsible for these crimes and by doing so will get the message out that this type of activity will not be tolerated here.”
Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett said the city faces a very similar situation with a drug problem that seems to be ever present.
“The drug problem in our city has been ongoing for years and it seems to have worsened with the economy in the shape that it’s been in,” Hargett said. “We have also instituted policies and practices that will hopefully affect the amount of drug activity that takes place in a positive way.”
Hargett said passing certain legislation would be one way to help law enforcement crack down on drug activity, especially the manufacturing of illegal substances.
“If we had legislation that made precursor chemicals like pseudoephedrine a controlled substance, it would certainly help us in the fight to keep these harmful drugs from being manufactured in our area,” he said.
“Until something like that happens, we will continue working closely with the sheriff’s office to come up with even more ideas and ways to prevent this type of activity so we’ll have cleaner streets and a better community.”