COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene is working to curb the number of overdoses the county sees each year. With the number of drug-related deaths rising this year, Greene and his staff have started working with the community and fellow law enforcement units to crack down on drugs and crime.
“Overdoses in our county are through the roof,” said Greene. “145 last year. Right now, as of today, we’re up to 80. That’s a problem and that’s what we’re focusing on.”
The Columbus County Sheriff’s Office is working with county property owners and the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office to boost patrols in what they call “Open Air Drug Areas.” The current zone Greene’s office is monitoring is along Clyde Norris Road. In a Facebook post announcing the start of this operation back in May, the Sheriff’s office said they have permission from the property owner to enforce all laws on the private land.
Less than two months into keeping constant patrol in the area, Greene says they have already started to see results.
“We’ve made several arrests for just trespassing, five or six for drugs. More of what we’re focusing on right now is open area drug markets,” said Greene. “Going back to basic economics — supply and demand.”
Greene says his office is cracking down on the demand for drugs now because that is what can lead to other crimes and issues in the community.
“My opinion of it: drugs is the foundation to all of this,”said Greene. “Money drives, it’s a business and we’ve got a plan and we’re going to stick to our plan, just changing it up a little bit, like I said, we’re focusing on the demand portion right now.”
As they look to expand this increase in patrol to other parts of the area where there is frequent drug activity, Greene says more agreements with property owners may be on the way soon.
“Now we just have one but we’re [in] negotiations for two more and what we’re focused on — that is your open area markets,” said Greene. “That’s where they stand on the corners all the times of day and night and this was a big problem area on the south end of the county for us.”
Another way the Sheriff’s office has tried to help combat crime in the community is through their new app. Greene says they’ve already received numerous reports through it, but he urges residents to be patient.
“We do act on this,” said Greene. “It takes time, though. I can’t tell you how many we get a day and some people are seeing that we’re in their communities and we have to step around to different places. We can’t be everywhere at one time.”
Greene says the effort to decrease the number of overdose deaths will continue as they pursue more ways to connect with property owners in the described “open air drug areas.”
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