Pubdate: Tue, 9 Mar 2010
Source: Albany Herald, The (GA)
Copyright: 2010 The Albany Herald Publishing Company, Inc.
Author: J. D. Sumner


ALBANY -- For drug unit commander Bill Berry, drug investigations are
really a matter of quality over quantity.

Giving his annual report to the Dougherty County Commission Monday,
Berry gave numbers that -- on the surface -- seem to suggest a slow down
in the department's drug eradication efforts.

Compared to 2008, arrests and charges brought against suspects by the
Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit for 2009 are down significantly. For 2009,
the department arrested 393 individuals compared to 575 in 2008,
bringing 617 total charges compared with 1,055 in 2008. But in terms
of those same 2008 statistics, the department's drug and property
seizure totals are high.

The ADDU seized roughly $800,000 worth of drugs in 2009 doubling the
$400,000 seized in 2008. In terms of asset forfeiture -- property
obtained through illegal drug sales -- the department was up to
$368,000 in 2009 compared to $133,000 in 2008.

"We have essentially changed our tactics," Berry told the commission.
"My philosophy is that if you cut the head off the snake, you don't
have to worry about the rest of it...while we're still looking at the
small users, our focus is on the large, multi-pound drug dealers with
the mindset if we cut off the supply, everything else will deal with

The report comes on the heels of a large methamphetamine and marijuana
discovery last week in Eastern Dougherty County where two people were
arrested in what Berry described as a manufacturing center.

The ADDU's efforts and the headlines they're generating are impacting
the agency's anti-drug efforts, Berry said.

"Because of all the press and the word of mouth about the meth bust
last week, we were set to have another one later in the week but they
refused to come into the county," Berry said. "That is what we're
aiming for, to keep this stuff out of the county."

Additionally, Berry said that his agency has stepped up participation
in community and educational events, speaking at schools and civic
groups throughout the county.

In terms of the staffing, commissioners expressed concerns over
vacancies in the unit.

The unit is made up of 26 members with the Albany Police Department
and county law enforcement -- split between the Dougherty County
Sheriff's office and Dougherty County Police -- fielding 12 members
from each, Berry and a full-time prosecutor from the District
Attorney's office.

The vacancies have historically been from the APD, prompting the
Dougherty County Commission to ask County Administrator Richard
Crowdis to write a letter to City Manager Alfred Lott about the
department being "chronically short."

"If we were all like them and you stayed three to five members short,
you'd be in a lot of trouble," Commissioner Jack Stone said. "Drugs
are a big problem in Dougherty County and I think its important that
they keep up their end of the stick."

The Albany Police Department has been suffering through their own
staffing shortage. Albany Police Chief John Proctor has cut the
department's 40-plus vacancies in half since January -- including nine
additional vacancies created by a stimulus grant approved by the city

Active recruiting and retention efforts are continuing and, at the
city's last commission meeting, Proctor said he was hopeful that the
department would be up to full staff by the end of the year.

"I've had talks with the chief (Proctor) and he's working to give us
the people we need," Berry told the commission.

Following the meeting, Berry clarified the issue with staffing, saying
that narcotics investigators require specialized training and go
through additional rigorous background and financial checks.

"It's not like you can just walk out into the hallway and grab the
first officers you see," Berry said. 
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