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‘The goal is to try to keep people safe:’ BCSO sheds light on effort to curb drug abuse

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 2:52 PM EDT
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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Two units within the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office work together to keep drugs off the street, but while the vice and narcotics unit likes to stay confidential, the special enforcement unit wants criminals to know they’re around.

“Drugs are a problem in every neighborhood, in every community, in every city, and every county,” said Lt. Joe Cherry. “Sheriff Ingram’s put forward our team as an additional support asset, or the entire sheriff’s office, to help beat that problem back. Our goal is to make this a great place for people to live and keep our community safe.”

Like much of the Cape Fear, Brunswick County is no stranger to drug problems.

“We’re typically seeing a higher influx of methamphetamine in our area as well as we’re still seeing a lot of crack-cocaine and powder cocaine,” said Cherry.

Stopping that drug trafficking is where the Selective Enforcement and Vice and Narcotics Unit comes into play. The two work together to look for criminal activity and crack down on the drug problem across Brunswick County. That can involve performing surveillance on areas community members have complained about or driving the county’s highways and byways in search of drivers acting suspiciously.

“We don’t do a ton of speed enforcement. We don’t do a ton of DWI enforcement,” said Cherry. “Our primary focus is what we call criminal interdiction, which is being able to pick up on indicators of criminal activity.”

Looking for that suspicious activity often leads to stopped and searched vehicles and it pays off. One traffic stop recently busted one man with guns, thousands in alleged drug money, and enough fentanyl that could have killed nearly 50,000 people.

Between 2013 and 2017, Cherry says the sheriff’s office was finding more heroin infiltrating the community than marijuana. More recently, there has been a problem with methamphetamines in Brunswick County. There is also still a high amount of powder and crack-cocaine in the area.

Not every stop made by the Selective Enforcement Unit leads to an arrest, and even if there’s a minor traffic infraction involved, those people typically get let off with a warning when stopped by Cherry’s unit.

“We’re not trying to incur a ton of expenses for people that we know are just trying to make it and trying to get by,” said Cherry. “The goal is not to go out there and write every single person a citation just because they were in the wrong this one time.”

Instead, Cherry’s unit focuses on the big picture: going after those trafficking dangerous substances into the community.

“We’re here to serve the people and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to make this the best community and the best place to live in North Carolina.”

The sheriff’s office relies heavily on tips and complaints from the community. Those help them identify problem areas and know what issues need their attention most, whether it be drug trafficking, thefts or gang activity. Community members can submit tips online or by calling 910-754-DRUG. Tips can be anonymous, but if you leave your name and contact information, the sheriff’s office will call you to update you when they’ve addressed the problem.

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