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County law enforcement war on drugs ongoing

Thursday, June 17, 2010

CCSD Chief Deputy Rob Gambill
Editor's Note: This is the first part in a series of stories regarding the drug culture in Clay County.

Apparently, members of Clay County law enforcement have been waging war on mind-altering substances for quite a while.

Clay County Sheriff's Department Sheriff Mike Heaton, Chief Deputy Rob Gambill and various other law enforcement agents -- who will remain unidentified because they are actively involved in drug investigations -- agreed to speak with The Brazil Times about residents' concerns that drugs have invaded their community.

Gambill, who has been nationally recognized for his work as a drug detective with the department, started at the CCSD in 1989, while Heaton, who has also worked on drug investigations, joined the department in 1995. As fathers and citizens in the community, they understand residents' concern about multiple drug arrests in the past few years.

"Drug cases can take a long time to develop all the information necessary for successful prosecution. But there are those cases -- when everything comes together at just the right time -- and we're able to take someone off the streets right away," Heaton said. "We choose to attack drugs more actively than other departments. There's a problem, that's obvious, but we're taking the fight to the streets."

The fight against illegal drugs started before Heaton and Gambill joined the force.

With a recorded history of use dating back thousands of years, marijuana was criminalized in the United States in 1937.

The herbal plant, also known as Cannabis, is an illegal psychoactive drug containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While many drugs easily fall into a category of stimulant, depressant or hallucinogen, marijuana exhibits a mixture of all these properties.

People using marijuana experience short-term physical and neurological effects, including an increased heart rate, lowered blood pressure, impairment of coordination skills and difficulty concentrating due to short-term and/or working memory.

In 2004, The United Nations released a report estimating 4 percent of the world's adult population (approximately 162 million people) use marijuana/cannabis annually, with 0.6 percent (22.5 million) using it on a daily basis.

Those individuals using Weed, Pot, Buddha or Bud, Mary Jane, Grass, Herb, Dope, Schwag and the nostalgic 1930s pseudonym of Reefer, have been in the area longer than law enforcement officials can remember.

"There have always been drugs here on some level," Gambill said. "But it was only a small core group of people who were using back then."

However, law enforcement did take notice when motorcycle clubs of the late 1960s-early 1970s helped bring harder drugs -- like heroin, cocaine and crank, an early form of amphetamine and a derivative of methamphetamine -- to the area.

"At that time, there was a stigma attached to drug use that kept many people from experimenting with drugs," Gambill said. "So the drug problem remained in that core group for a long time."

Although most people don't think about it, alcohol/drug abuse and misuse remains a major problem on the roadways.

Operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVWI) is not just a charge for motorists under the influence of alcohol anymore. A driver can be under the influence of any number of illegal substances that impairs their ability to properly operate a motor vehicle.

The CCSD provided arrest records from 2003-08 that indicate the charge of OVWI has alternated with petition to revoke probation (PRP) and possession of marijuana as the top three charges filed against suspects booked into the jail facility during the previous six years.

The only exception took place in 2008, when OVWI was first, possession of marijuana was second with PRP was third.

In 2009, records indicate the top three charges were probation violation, OVWI and possession of marijuana, respectively.

Although the statistics have yet to be confirmed for the slightly more than 1,000 arrests in 2010, Heaton said he believes the preliminary data will show charges for criminal activity involving methamphetamine and controlled substances are moving their way into the top 10.

Building a drug case

According to officials, there is a definite difference between suspicion of criminal activity and an actual probable cause affidavit that allows authorities to get a search/arrest warrant for a person believed involved in criminal activity.

"Many times, people think that just because 'everyone knows' something is going on, (law enforcement) should be able to enter a residence and make a search," Clay County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Rob Gambill recently told The Brazil Times. "It doesn't work that way. We have to have actual evidence of current or very recent drug activity in order to make a search."

Although some television programs show a criminal case being concluded in an hour, it takes a while longer in the real world of justice.

"These drug cases are very time consuming, but we won't cut corners," Gambill said. "Many drug offenders can afford to go out and hire the best attorney that money can buy. And if we make one small mistake, our whole case falls apart. That is why we spend so much time making sure everything is done right."

Evidence in building a criminal case can include any or all of the following elements:

* Verifying the initial tip/report casework,

* Hours of surveillance/investigation,

* The organization and execution of the subsequent arrest/search warrant raid,

* The initial arrest, questioning of a suspect and subsequent paperwork and other man hours necessary for ongoing investigation, and

* The numerous legal proceedings and testimony involved in a jury/ bench trial.

The process can take anywhere from a few days or months of undercover operations for each element before enough evidence is collected to present for formal charges to be filed against a suspect.

"We take our time and perform a thorough investigation, so, when we file a case, it has a great chance or resulting in a conviction. We don't want to waste our resources and the taxpayer's money by quickly putting together a case that has very little chance of success," Clay County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Rob Gambill told The Brazil Times. "Building a solid drug case is a lot like building a house. You must have a good foundation to build on or the whole thing will fall apart."

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Alcohol prohibition in the US run from 1919 to 1933

Now google 'The Great Wall Street Crash' and see when that happened!

The war on drugs is a tale of a once great and free nation which fell down a rat hole into a fantasy world riddled with peculiar and dystopian logic.

No amount of money, police powers, weaponry, wishful thinking or pseudo-science will make our streets safe again; only an end to prohibition can do that. How much longer are we willing to foolishly risk our own survival by continuing to ignore the obvious, historically confirmed solution?

Whether or not any of these 'at present illegal' substances are dangerous or addictive is not in contention. Some clearly are and others, such as marijuana, are clearly not. At present we have a bigger 'prohibition problem' than we do a 'drug problem' This is actually a re-run of the 1920s and early 1930s --Alcohol was rightly perceived to be addictive and dangerous, so they banned it. The result was so catastrophic that the same people who were behind it's prohibition soon took to the streets to get it legalized/regulated again.

For those of you who are still living in some strange parallel universe, one where prohibition actually works, may I suggest that you return to high school economics class, and learn about supply and DEMAND. Learn that you cannot up DEMAND simply by upping supply. Contrary to popular held superstition, drugs are not PUSHED, the drug dealers are filling a DEMAND not creating one. The DEMAND is here in the US and is impossible to control, but what is possible to control, is the income from that DEMAND. All we have to do is allow legal businesses to meet that DEMAND. Under proper regulation drug use will not rise, as it couldn't get any worse than it is at present.

If you support prohibition then you've helped trigger the worst crime wave in history.

If you support prohibition you've a helped create a black market with massive incentives to hook both adults and children alike.

If you support prohibition you've helped to make these dangerous substances available in schools and prisons.

If you support prohibition you've helped raise gang warfare to a level not seen since the days of alcohol bootlegging.

If you support prohibition you've helped create the prison-for-profit synergy with drug lords.

If you support prohibition you've helped remove many important civil liberties from those citizens you falsely claim to represent.

If you support prohibition you've helped put previously unknown and contaminated drugs on the streets.

If you support prohibition you've helped to escalate Theft, Muggings and Burglaries.

If you support prohibition you've helped to divert scarce law-enforcement resources away from protecting your fellow citizens from the ever escalating violence against their person or property.

If you support prohibition you've helped overcrowd the courts and prisons, thus making it increasingly impossible to curtail the people who are hurting and terrorizing others.

If you support prohibition you've helped evolve local gangs into transnational enterprises with intricate power structures that reach into every corner of society, controlling vast swaths of territory with significant social and military resources at their disposal.

And one last thought: The real "drug Dons" are the rich and powerful who control the government-licensed drug cartel (Big Pharma). They view people who oppose proper regulation of these unpatentable --thus at present illegal-- substances, as "useful idiots"

-- Posted by malcolmkyle on Fri, Jun 18, 2010, at 9:43 AM

the original BAD BOYS,,,,,Keep it up....

-- Posted by heavy on Sun, Jun 20, 2010, at 5:27 PM

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