By Steve Jones
A citizen once asked me this: If the citizens know who all the drug dealers and users are, then why don’t you (the police department)? I told him that we did. He responded with, “Well why don’t you do anything about it?” I responded with, “We do.” However, it seems a lot of citizens may think this. This week, I thought I’d address this question and open a discussion about it.
Trinity has approximately 2,700 residents and no telling how many daily commuters coming to town or passing through. At the police department, we have five full-time officers and myself. If you’ve ever created schedules that are required to cover seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, you’ll know that basically having five people does not leave you with a lot of options. Currently, my scheduled hours are Monday thru Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, I’m basically on call 24/7. Four of the officers cover the basic base 24 hours a day, seven-day schedule, which leaves one officer as a “floater”. That floating officer usually works sometime in the evening and night. This still leaves several nights a week with only one officer. Like I’ve explained in past articles about criminals knowing information, they’re aware of our schedules. It’s in their best interest to know as many details as possible about who’s working and when, so they pay attention.
Because we are a rural, small town department, our officers have to know how to deal with every aspect of law enforcement. This includes handling parking, speeding, and equipment violations, to handling family violent assaults, child abuse, sexual assault, burglary investigations, etc.… This is something larger agency officers may not understand or be able to do. They tend to be assigned to single divisions and only perform one specific task. For example, in a larger agency, the patrol officer will respond to the initial call, take down the complainant’s information, write a narrative, and forward the information to the proper, specialized division. The division investigators will follow up on the information at a later time.
Our patrol officers, however, respond to the same initial calls, take down the complainant’s information, write a narrative, and then they will have to follow up on the investigation themselves until it is cleared or resolved, no matter the classification of the complaint. There is no one to pass it on to.
Conducting a criminal narcotics investigation takes up a lot of time, patience, information, manpower, and funding. A true narcotics investigator spends hours and sometimes days sitting and watching a location. They also covertly follow the drug dealers for hours and sometimes days. Based on all you’ve read so far, when do you think it’d be best for our one officer per shift to do all this? Remember the officer still has to respond to the day-to-day calls and criminal investigations in the community. Remember, the officer has to stay in the city limits and if the dealers go to the Huntsville area, who’s to follow them?
There are a lot of people who have told me that drug dealers and users shouldn’t have rights and we shouldn’t have to worry about it -- that we should just run up on them and lock them up. I agree that it would make it easier, but it’s a fantasy and we need to deal with factual information. The factual information is that drug dealers and users have the same rights as you and I, no matter how we fell about them.
The positive side of this is our department works well with other agencies to help each other battle the drug dealers and users that plague our communities. When we have information that we may not have the resources to investigate, we pass the information along to a narcotics agency that can. When we have information that we can follow up on, we do.
The day I was asked this, I was taken off guard. My best answer to this would be that we do know who the drug dealers and users are, just like most of you do. When we have the time, information, and opportunity, we bust them. The question I should have asked this man that day was, “If you know who the drug dealers and users are, then why haven’t you ever turned them in yourself?” Trinity County Crimestoppers does everything they can, down to getting on their knees and begging you to call them with information about crime and drug dealers, yet they only receive a few calls per month. If you are concerned about drug dealers and users, my question to you is, what are you doing about it to help, or do you want to limit your involvement to complaining?