‘Crime knows no jurisdictional boundaries,’ Bladen, Columbus, Robeson sheriffs announce tri-county task force

Updated: Dec. 2, 2020 at 5:31 PM EST
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BLADEN COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - In an effort to address problems in each of their jurisdictions, the sheriffs from Bladen, Columbus and Robeson counties have announced the formation of the Tri-County Community Impact Task Force.

“The Tri-County C.I.T. Task Force is a proactive group that will address problem areas based on citizen complaints within each county,” Robeson County Sheriff Burnis Wilkins wrote in a press release. “Each of the sheriffs have a similar team in place already, but we can do much more and be more effective when we work together.”

The team will consist of approximately 15 deputies and will include K9s and their handlers as well as the availability of two helicopters, drones, and command posts.

“Drug dealers, gang members, human traffickers and such see no jurisdictional lines and routinely cross into bordering counties,” Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker said. “Utilizing resources from the tri-county agencies will be beneficial in supporting our cause.”

The counties involved are three of the biggest in the state and being largely rural, the culture is different than other nearby areas like Wilmington and Fayetteville.

Their core mission is to fight violent crime across county lines and they’re starting with tackling the drug trade.

The sheriffs and the DA offices working on the task force agree much of the violent crime and gang violence is related to drug trafficking.

“The individuals that are peddling these poisons to these people are committing violent crimes and they’re gonna be treated as such,” said Robeson County DA Matthew Scott.

All three counties have seen overdoses increase. The pandemic is making a problem already devastating the rural communities even worse.

“We know that by looking at drug dealers you’re also dealing with the root causes—a violent crime—so these things...there really is a relationship between drug dealing and violent crime in our area,” said DA Jon David.

But task force members say there’s a stark difference between dealers and users in the grips of addiction. Their policy is informed by the concept of showing compassion to people grappling with substance abuse disorders.

“What we’ve attempted to do is take a two-prong approach to that...we’re gonna do traditional investigation, arrest and prosecution with the dealers, but with respect to the users, they’re not just criminals with a legal problem, they’re addicts with a medical issue,” said David.

Part of the effort is expanding innovative programs to get addicts treatment and care across the three counties as well.

“The citizens have asked us to clean up our counties, and bringing in such a group will be key in making an impact as the name of the team suggests,” Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene said.

The team is scheduled to begin its patrol and enforcement efforts later this week. The newly-formed task force plans to meet several times each month to set goals for cleaning up areas in the three counties.

Leaders hope to open the lines of communication with the community and ask that people with crime tips contact their county sheriff’s office.

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