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War on drugs: Candidates differ

March 17, 2012
By Kevin Pierson ( , The Marietta Times

With more than 1.6 million arrests across the United States for drug-related offenses there's little doubt America is in a war on drugs.

But the two candidates vying for Washington County Sheriff in the November general election have two entirely different approaches to the war.

Independent candidate Chris Forshey, of 201 Colegate Drive, Marietta, argues too much effort is being spent on the war on drugs, neglecting basic crimes such as burglary and thefts.

Article Photos

KEVIN PIERSON The Marietta Times
Washington County Sheriff Deputy Votan, a 3-year-old German Shepherd, performs a sniff on a vehicle in an alley off Putnam Street in Marietta Wednesday with the assistance of Washington County Sheriff Deputy Jeremiah McConnell. The war on drugs is a contested issue in the 2012 Washington County sheriff’s race.

"People need to know if our car is broken into, or our business is broken into, that it is going to get the same amount of attention as the drug dealer down the street, because they're of equal importance," Forshey said.

Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks, a Republican, who is seeking his third term in office, maintains the biggest portion of crimes in Washington County are related to the abuse of drugs.

"Anybody that thinks we do not have a drug problem is not in touch with reality," Mincks said.

Fact Box

By the numbers

Drug cases investigated by the Washington County Sheriff's Office and the Major Crimes Task Force

2007: 188

2008: 160

2009: 280

2010: 112

2011: 89

Source: Washington County Sheriff's Office

Forfeitures as a result of drug arrests

2010: $17,256 plus a 1996 Chevy Blazer sold at auction

2011: $33,451 plus 26 guns, 2001 Hyundai and a Yamaha 80 motorcycle sold at auction

2012: $1,200 cash plus a bed that will be sold. The Holloway forfeiture is yet to come this year, with $873,000 in cash, 120 guns, 15 automobiles, four wheelers, boats, tractors and campers part of that forfeiture

Source: Washington County Sheriff's Office

Drug overdose deaths since '05

2005: 10

2006: 6

2007: 4

2008: 5

2009: 6

2010: 2

2011: 5

Source: Washington County Sheriff's Office

According to figures provided by the sheriff, since 2005 there have been 38 deaths as a result of drug overdoses. Also since 2005, the Major Crimes Task Force has investigated 879 crimes related to drugs.

The Major Crimes Task Force, a multifaceted organization involving law enforcement agencies from both Washington and Morgan Counties, came about as the result of a recommendation by Wright State University after a string of drug related incidents in the early 2000s.

The detective bureau of the sheriff's office has investigated 116 drug crimes since 2007.

"We have diverted resources to drugs because we felt that was one of the areas affecting our community," Mincks said.

Since 2010, there has been over $51,900 cash forfeited to the sheriff's office, along with personal property like vehicles as a result of drug investigations, according to reports from the sheriff's office.

Nationwide, drug crimes had the highest arrest counts for law enforcement in 2009, the most recent numbers available, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In 2009, there were 1,663,582 drug abuse violations reported by the FBI. Driving under the influence was the second highest arrest count with 1.4 million and larceny theft was third with 1.3 million, the FBI report said.

Property crimes as a whole came in slightly higher than drug abuse, with 1.7 million arrests nationwide, according to the Bureau of Justice and FBI.

Forshey said he also believes there's a problem with drugs, but not to the extent that it should take officers off the road.

"I think there's been a withdrawal from basic police service. We've concentrated fully on this perceived drug epidemic," Forshey said.

Mincks said that's simply not true.

"We are responding to the basic calls," he said.

Generally speaking, the sheriff's office likes to keep four shifts of five officers on the road. That number fluctuates depending on the needs of the department. Deputies from the Major Crimes Task Force or the detective bureau can be put on road duty, and road officers can be moved to the task force if sufficient cases arise, Mincks explained.

"We allocate the personnel where ever we have the need," Mincks said.

Mincks has stated he believes the biggest portion of property crimes in Washington County are related to drugs, but Forshey contested that statement.

"I think we're mislead into believing that we have this huge epidemic in the county. I do not believe that that can statistically be backed up," Forshey said.

The exact percentage of property crimes related to drugs was unavailable, as every report would have to be checked to see if the suspect stated the crime was to support a drug habit.

There are many who fall into that category, however, said Cathy Harper, coordinator for Right Path of Washington County.

"I think that sometimes some of the petty crimes and robberies and things we see are because people have a problem with drugs. A lot of times they resort to that to support their habit," Harper explained.

Harper said she believes the community needs a balance between law enforcement and education, to reduce the supply and demand of drugs in the community.

"I think there shouldn't be any less emphasis, with what the sheriff is doing, because in the big picture for us to make any difference at all we have to work together to decrease supply and demand," Harper said.

That's the type of approach Forshey said he wants to bring to the office, by putting more emphasis into education of the youth.

By doing that, deputies could be freed up for other cases.

"The sheriff's office has to be a well-rounded agency. It has to be aware of what the community needs. It has to be aware of what the community wants," Forshey said.

Mincks maintains the sheriff's office continues to respond to all calls it receives, and treats them with respect whether it is a drug crime or a broken car window.

The biggest issue, however, remains drugs.

"It's a tremendous problem as far as I am concerned, and it's going to continue," Mincks said.



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