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Officials: Drug problem not widespread
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There have been several traffic stops made by, or calls for assistance to, either the Pembroke Police Department or the Bryan County Sheriffs Departments over the past several months which have resulted in arrests of a number of individuals for possession of drugs.
This may have caused some residents of North Bryan County to wonder whether or not illegal drug activity has invaded the North Bryan Country region and the City of Pembroke in particular.
Local law enforcement officials say not to worry.
“There is some drug activity within the city limits of Pembroke,” Pembroke Police Chief William Collins said.  However, he says it is not a problem of tremendous proportions.
Bryan County Sheriff Clyde Smith agreed.
“The truth is that while there is some drug usage within the city limits of Pembroke, most of the drug activity we find is in the unincorporated areas of North Bryan County,” Smith said.
Since Dec. 29, they both said, they have made their biggest drug seizures ever.
“I couldn’t have done half the thing I have in order to fight this drug activity without the complete support of Mayor Cook and the Pembroke City Council,” Collins said.
Smith, agreed, stating that Mayor Judy Cook and the members of the Pembroke City Council have “kept the growth of Pembroke well managed” and voiced his opinion that ”the Pembroke Police and Fire Departments are doing a real good job in handling all of the challenges that they face”.
Smith said he and Collins have set up a drug task-force that work together whenever they are alerted to illegal drug activity in the area.
“Since the drug team started working the city and outlying areas, its become a safer place to work and to live,” Collins said. “Areas where illegal drug activity used to be seen regularly are no longer hangouts for the drug crowd. Our team’s constant presence has scared them away.”
Those who have been arrested are reportedly from somewhere else.
“All of the drug busts we’ve made lately have been, with only one exception, of people from outside the North Bryan County area,” Collins said.
Smith agreed.
“It seems that most of the time someone is caught with quantities of illegal drugs in Bryan County, they came from elsewhere for the specific purpose of peddling their wares,” he said.
The main drugs authorities find are methamphetamine and crack cocaine. Some marijuana has been confiscated, but authorities say the big money for drug dealers nowadays is made in manufacturing meth and crack.
What’s more, sometimes labs to make meth are established in the middle of residential neighborhoods, where they threaten the safety of the neighboring families due to the volatile chemicals used to produce the drug. Authorities say that’s why it is important for anyone who has any knowledge of these illegal drug operations to notify law enforcement immediately.
There are several anti-drug and alcohol programs at the high school level in order to help area teens make the right choices. One of theprograms established by Collins’s department, “Fatal Vision”, took second place in a national competition sponsored in 2006 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
The Bryan County Sheriff’s Department has School Resource Officer Thomas Marlatt stationed in the Bryan County High School/Middle School complex, and Smith said that there is “neither any serious drug activity nor any organized gang activity in these schools.”
The Bryan County Sheriffs Department, he said, regularly participates with Bulloch, Effingham, and Chatham County Counter Narcotics Teams. His officers have attended classes on identifying, handling, and disposing of these drugs.
Collins said the drug war is slowly but surely being won, although “it upsets me more than anything else that we haven’t been able to stomp out the use of illegal drugs out altogether”.
Smith said it is a fact is that “whenever more people move into an area, more drug activity moves in along with them.”
The stashes of cash seized by Smith’s deputies in drug busts have enabled his department to purchase all of their vehicles, without having to go to the Bryan County Commissioners for additional funds since 1997, he said.
Smith estimated there is at least a 75 percent correlation between the number of court cases handled in the Bryan County court system and illegal drug-related crimes and activity.
He said Bryan County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed and the county commissioners have “all done their part as well to keep drugs from taking a foothold anywhere in Bryan County”.
Smith said county residents can rest assured everyone is committed to seeing to it that it stays that way.
Collins said that Pembroke is his town, he was born and raised here, and it is his responsibility to protect not only the residents but his own family from harm.
His dream, he said, would be that he could make Pembroke a completely drug free community.
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