THE ISSUE: Local battle against illicit drugs.
OUR OPINION: Aggressive enforcement makes our community safer.
Illicit drug use is modern day’s scourge. It destroys lives, damages communities, and is the primary source of crime that daily plagues our society.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, half of those arrested for the serious crimes of murder, robbery and assault were under the influence of illegal drugs. Illicit drug use is also the culprit for over 50% of the domestic violence, as well as child abuse and neglect. And, per Bureau of Justice Statistics, 70% of state prisoners and 57% of federal prisoners used drugs on a regular basis before incarceration.
Regrettably, illicit drug use is too often swept aside with the rationalization of, “It is what it is.” To accept this specious rationalization is to tolerate the threat that this dangerous scourge poses to the well-being and safety of our community.
Refusing to accept this rationalization, Sheriff Mike Prendergast has made the battle against illicit drugs a central focus of his agency with a strategy of aggressive enforcement to combat it whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head in our neighborhoods.
Illustrative of his agency’s tough stance on illicit drugs is Operation Coin Toss. Launched in June with the initiation of undercover buys, intelligence gathering, and investigative work by the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Tactical Impact Unit, it led to the arrests of 24 hardcore drug pushers in August.
Allowing no enforcement respite, the CCSO followed August’s successful operation with a meticulously prepared and executed drug sweep across the county in November that resulted in the arrests of 30 of the county’s worst drug dealers and re-offenders who posed a clear and present danger to our community.
While aggressive enforcement will not eliminate the scourge of illicit drugs, it does help to substantially reduce the volume of drugs and to keep drug dealers out of our neighborhoods by making it a costly, risky, and uncertain venture for them.
Although Sheriff Prendergast’s tough stance on illicit drugs and his agency’s aggressive targeting of drug dealers and re-offenders send a powerful message that illicit drugs are not tolerated in our neighborhoods, he and his officers cannot keep this scourge out of our neighborhoods without community assistance and support.
Neighborhood residents can directly assist the CCSO’s tough anti-drug stance by watching for and reporting suspicious activities such as: visitors at strange hours; excessive foot traffic to and from a house; the presence of numerous cars stopping at a house for a short period of time; and by keeping an eye out for and reporting discarded drug paraphernalia. Residents can also indirectly support the CCSO’s message by strengthening their community spirit and pride with cook-outs, block parties, clean ups, and beautification projects.
A strong, proud community in partnership with aggressive law enforcement is the most effective means for keeping the scourge of illicit drugs and the crimes that it festers from taking root in our neighborhoods.