By JASON JACOBS
and IVY HERRON
Northview High School, the Clay County Sheriff's Department and the Clay County Prosecutor's Office hosted an assembly Thursday morning for junior and senior students promoting drug awareness, focusing mainly on the methamphetamine issue in Clay County.
The assembly began with Chief Deputy Doug Barr comparing 1970s issues to those of today, and showing that much more awareness is needed with the problems of today than 30 years ago.
"It's not like living in Mayberry anymore," Barr said.
Barr was followed by Det. Sgt. Rob Gambill and Det. Sgt. Jeff Maynard, who outlined the different components that could be used to make methamphetamines, the enforcement strategies the department is using to help alleviate the drug problem in Clay County, and how to detect a meth lab in your neighborhood.
Some of the main indicators of a meth lab include the presence unusually strong odors, house windows being blacked out, a high amount of activity at a house during unusual times of the day and an excessive amount of trash being produced which includes a high amount of coffee filters, drain fluid and starting fluid.
"If there is one drug that you should avoid at all cost, Methamphetamine is it," Maynard told the crowd of teenagers.
Chief Deputy Barr then displayed a 50,000-volt Taser and described to the students exactly how the taser works and demonstrated, without the charge in it, how long the five seconds really lasts when the taser is running.
"You don't realize how long five seconds is until you're hit with this thing," Barr said. "I've been tazed before and the only thing you think about is 'When it will end?'"
Most people addicted to meth feel almost no pain, according to Barr, so using pepper spray will not subdue them in the event they should attack anyone, making it necessary for officers to use a taser.
"Some of you might not think this affects you," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton told the students. "(The cost of fighting Methamphetamine) will affect you the rest of your lives."
Heaton said it costs citizens a large amount of tax money to detain the drug criminals in the new Clay County Justice Center, which makes it difficult to hire more deputies.
"Right now, the county budget cannot support the hiring of any more deputies," Heaton said. "The amount of problems in the county makes it overwhelming to cover all of it with the amount of men on our staff."
The assembly really hit home with students when Prosecutor Lee Reberger had two students from the crowd placed under a mock arrest, including handcuffs, and took them up to the stage.
"It may seem like we are just a bunch of old guys trying to scare you, but, in reality, we are a bunch of old guys trying to scare you," Reberger said.
Reberger then described an example situation on how a trap was set up for the potential criminals and that is how they were caught. He then told the students that multiple traps could be set up for the person or group which can lead to multiple charges and concurrent sentences, which for dealing methamphetamines is 6-20 years of real-time imprisonment.
"If we do our job and we educate and scare you now, then we should not see you in our courts somewhere down the line," Reberger said.
Deputy Jason Frazier ended the assembly by discussing a little known tool of the sheriff's department.
Frazier is a qualified member of the Clay County Sheriff's Department's Surveillance Target Acquisition (STA) team. The observation team provides surveillance before, during and after the implementation of a search warrant. Surveillance is the main objective, but the team is capable of using lethal force if needed.
"It is also our job to ensure the safety of officers during high-risk situations," Frazier said, showing the crowd a specially-designed sniper riffle the team uses in extreme situations.
A training video showed Frazier and another officer using the sniper rifle with an accuracy of at least 500 yards.
"It was important that we did this for the older students," Reberger said afterwards. "We have the Red Ribbon Week for the fifth graders and it was necessary to show that we cannot give up on giving the older kids the ability and knowledge they need to make smart and intelligent decisions.
If you have any questions or information, contact the Clay County Sheriff's Department at 446-2535.