Sunday, March 11, 2012

Florida sheriff's drug unit looks 'beyond traffic stop'

Reprinted from the Naples News

FORT MYERS, Fla — A 2008 Chevrolet Impala pulled over on Interstate 75 for a broken tail light had $125,000 of cocaine stashed in the trunk.

A driver and passenger stopped for a seat belt infraction said they were cousins but didn't know each other's name. A deputy found 90 pounds of pot in the SUV.

These were two days of work in 2012 worth $500,000 in contraband drugs, plus bragging rights for Lee County's Highway Interdiction Unit.

"It's looking beyond the traffic stop," said Lt. Pete Hedrick, who heads the unit. "Those first minutes you get to visit with them, you have to gauge the level of nervousness. It could be because of a suspended DL (driver license). Or because they just killed someone."

Since 2004, the five-member team within the Lee County Sheriff's Office Narcotics Unit primarily has patrolled the comings and goings of accused shoplifters, drug runners, and identity thieves on I-75...

(please click here for the rest of the story)


  1. Wow, half a million dollars in drugs off the streets, and Administrator Plemons, who's never been on the streets, doesn't think a drug task force is worth it. I guess once again the record shows the pitfalls of having an administrator instead of a lawman as Sheriff, especially an administrator who is one record for having trouble with budgets, both personal and departmental.

  2. Thank you for sharing. I think the most interesting thing I know about interstate drug interdiction programs by Florida Sheriff's Departments is that they're self-sustaining. The autos seized are sold, traded to other jurisdictions as undercover cars, and the cash put back into to forfeiture funds of the department. The officers are typical patrolmen with special training and lots of on the job experience. They are very, very effective, and I have never heard of their efforts causing a Board of County Commissioners to find it necessary to raise the tax rates as a result of their work. - The Legendary

  3. Sounds like our current Sheriff and Chief Deputy can't put their administrative heads together to come up with the money because they are too busy covering for Plemons' overspending on budget items.

    I keep hearing from friends that McNamara has a plan on how to do it hear. I can now clearly see that Plemons doesn't have the safety of the county as a primary concern. Give me a real lawman any day!!

  4. I am all for law and order. I am not a drug addict, nor do I benefit in any way from the outstanding market we have created for drugs.

    Our "War on Drugs" is as much of a failure as was Prohibition. Prohibition created a lucrative "business opportunity" for many and spawned much related lawlessness, just as we currently see in the drug business.

    We can play Yosemite Sam in the "War on Drugs" forever but it will not ultimately solve our problems with crime. You can lock up drug addicts and money addicts and most will go right back to it as soon as they are released.

    Portugal decriminalized drug possession a decade ago, began addressing addiction as a health problem, switched funding from law enforcement and prisons to rehabs and maintenance programs. Ten years later, addictions rates are about the same and crime rates have dropped 50% - not just former drug crimes, but also crimes against property and crimes against persons.

    I want Parnell McNamara to be our next sheriff. He is decent and ethical and we certainly need a change in guard, especially at the jail. However, for me, this "War on Drugs" drumbeat is like the bad chalk on the chalkboard...

    Everyone in America should watch this from Fox News:

  5. While I agree in prinical that we do need more funding focused on treatment, having worked in a treatment center, I can honestly tell you that someone has to want to get better to beat their drug addiction. As you stated, addiction rates 10 years later were about the same. Only crime rates dropped, which they should because they gave up on crime. It's kind of like saying that because we stopped playing defense in football, we have doubled our offense's time of possession.

    To me, giving up on a crime is the same as admitting defeat. Just like in my football anaolgy, you improved a stat, but you will still lose the game. Prohibition was unsuccessful because alcohol use was wildly popular amoung the majority of people. Drug use is not the same. During prohibition, there were gang wars, but it was a battle between gangs. In the war of drugs, it's the gangs against each other and law enforcement.

    An example, I've heard McNamara tell this story of when he was working security on the border. A drug gang kidnapped a police officer. They finally let him go. They dumped him in the middle of the town square. They had soaked in in gasoline and set him on fire as a message. They mutilate people to get their message across, that's people not just cops. This is the difference between now and prohibition. Did innocents lose their lives during prohbition, of course. But during prhibition, innocents and law enforcement weren't targetted.

  6. Besides the treatment/rehab solution, which does involve a high level of commitment to abstinence, there are some very good maintenance drugs that are now available. I am most familiar with opiate addiction because my young adult son is an addict.

    For opiates, there is buprenorphine(Suboxone)and also naltrexone, both far better than methadone. We are on the brink of a vaccine for cocaine addiction and I am not so sure about maintenance for methamphetamine, but I suspect we will get there very soon.

    We need to consider that addiction is a health issue, in many cases, a physiological problem, rather than a character issue. My son has been on buprenorphine for several months through a private physician.

    I have had multiple conversations with this physician regarding public policy issues on addiction. He told me he has a Judge, a pastor, a couple of active law enforcement officers, a couple of retired DPS officers, a physical therapist, a couple of nurses and a physician's assistant on buprenorphine maintenance. These were not people who became addicted through recreational use, but were legitimately prescribed synthetic opiates (Hydrocodone, Oxycontin) for a medical issue - what you might call an "accidental addict".

    Those examples, from a caseload of 90, should tell us there is a certain percentage of our population (perhaps 20-25%, according to this doctor) that will become addicted because of their physiology rather than upbringing, character, lack of self-control, etc.

    If these professional people, with so much to lose, get addicted and can't stop it on their own, then how can we expect very many at the other end of the scale to give it up without assistance? These addicts on the lower end of the scale commit crimes on a daily basis in order to sustain their costly addiction.

    If we would direct our funding efforts toward making maintenance drugs more accessible (again, not the very best solution when compared with abstinence, but much less expensive and effective than jail or prison) a couple of very good things would happen.

    Yes, there would be less crime because addicts in general could become more functional and less driven to steal and assault. And, with less addicts out there, the demand for drugs is reduced and there is less money to be made. These gangs at the border and elsewhere are murdering and maiming law enforcement not just for fun, but because they are challenging their livelihood that the US addiction rate supports.

    There is always more than one way to skin a cat. I know firsthand that we are losing this war and we need to consider another strategy. Besides that, I don't want law enforcement officers in constant harm's way - drug addicts and peddlers are an awful bunch. I have seen the transformation and it is ugly.