LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. (CN2 NEWS) In 2019, the Lancaster County Sheriff’s office increased drug arrests by 9 percent compared to 2018, and conducted 75 search warrants.
“Early in my career, that would have been unheard of,” said Captain Eric Brown, a law enforcement officer with more than 20 years of experience. Instead, Brown says it was normal to have just “five or six” search warrants a year.
But Brown says the drug problem is also not what it was when he first became a law enforcement officer. Twenty years ago, Brown says cocaine and marijuana were found in some neighborhoods. Today opioids, like heroin and fentanyl, are everywhere.
“In 2019, we had a huge number of arrests for high-level drug offenses,” said Brown, “A lot of distribution arrests, trafficking arrests.”
Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile says in 2019, out of all the drugs they seized that was suspected to be heroin, less than 20 percent actually was. Faile says a lot of it was heroin mixed with fentanyl, and around 50 percent was pure fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a synthetic drug and considered as one of the most dangerous drugs in the world. Faile says in 2019, officers focused on enforcement. In one drug operations, narcotics agents seized 25,000 pills. Another operation led to arrest warrants against 30 individuals.
“We will certainly work to try to get drug dealers off the streets and put them in jail,” said Faile, but adds that they also want to help addicts, “But folks that are addicts that go out and commit crimes; we want to be able to help those folks.”
In 2020, deputies will have more options to help addicts. Thanks to almost $2 million in federal grants, the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with EMS and the City of Lancaster Police Department to hire additional officers and counselors.
These individuals will follow up with addicts who have had run-ins with the law and educate them on the resources available to get help. Additionally, Lancaster County will launch awareness campaigns within the community and schools.
The goal is to reduce overdoses by at least 20 percent and to reduce crime.
“Any of your misdemeanor property crimes, misdemeanor thefts, low-level drug cases, prostitution, things like that,” said Faile, “The majority of those folks that we arrest have some type of substance abuse problem.”
Though the program will not expunge records, Faile is hoping it will help addicts choose a better path in life.
For deputies like Capt. Brown, it means when they see people at their worst, they can offer help.
“So hopefully they can start on the right path from that moment going forward.”