Sheriff calls group together to combat drugs
The Emery County Sheriff's Office is developing a plan to work on removing drugs from Emery County. Sheriff Greg Funk is working with law enforcement in other areas besides the sheriff's office. He has included the Emery County Attorney's Office, Utah Highway Patrol, Utah State Parks and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, as well as law enforcement from other counties to the team that will look at creative ways to accomplish the goal.
"It's our plan to work together to combat the problem we have with drugs in Emery County. If everyone works together it will go a long way to solving the drug problem. We are going to be hard on people who sell drugs and bring drugs into our communities. We want to get help for users. There are a number of treatment plans available. One thing we are going to encourage our citizens to do is to seek treatment before it becomes a problem that involves law enforcement. Everyone needs to work together to bring help to those who need it'" said Sheriff Funk.
Sheriff Funk has appointed Wade Allinson from the Adult Probation and Parole to head up the drug task force for Emery County. Also involved is Det. Jerod Curtis, Deputy Garrett Conover, Sgt. Tom Harrison and Det. John Barnett.
Allinson said, "We are trying to send the message out, don't do drugs. We've got a lot of professional law enforcement officers working on the problem. If you need to be put on probation, parole, or if you need to go to jail or prison, we will do what we need to do to keep drugs out of our county. We are all on the same team, the state and the county. We want to make our neighborhoods a better place to live. The responsibility for this lies on each of our shoulders, not just law enforcement, but the communities as well and the citizens. We need to get the citizens involved," said Allinson.
Brent Langston is the deputy county attorney for Emery County and is involved with prosecuting those guilty of drug crimes. "It's a common misconception that drugs are victimless crimes. It affects everyone. It victimizes families and all involved. Drug and alcohol use can lead to serious crimes which involve third parties. Many innocent victims are harmed when someone who is impaired operates a vehicle. Automobile homicide is very serious. It's a big, big problem," said Langston.
Another focus for the sheriff's office is the push to educate the children before drugs become a part of their lives. Currently Deputy Shaun Bell visits and spends a few hours each day in the Emery High School as well as spends time at the junior highs.
The NOVA program is used in the elementary schools and into the junior highs. NOVA officers visit the schools and work with the students on this prevention program. Having Deputy Bell at the high school has made a big difference. A number of arrests have been made and the students are more aware of the seriousness of drug use and the selling of drugs. The members of the drug task force are also assigned to each school and they have been meeting with faculty and staff. These meetings have met with good response from the schools. It's beginning to make a difference.
Allinson said another area of prevention they will focus on is with the religious organizations in the county. They want to make congregations aware of the problems with prescription drug abuse and other dangerous drugs. The task force will go into private businesses as well to educate employees. Awareness is a great tool, if you aren't aware of a problem then it's hard to solve that problem. Getting all the youth groups, parent groups, church groups and everyone involved and aware will be a component to building a stronger community.
Capt. Kyle Ekker wants everyone to be aware of the drug tip line. You can remain anonymous and leave a tip on the line and you won't be contacted. Call 381'2888 for any tips you might have. You can report suspicious activity on this line. You can call the sheriff's office at 381'2404 and have any unused prescription drugs picked up.
The schools are using the Buddy Box system now where students can anonymously report drug activity, bullying or any other concern they might have.
Langston said the tip line is really helpful in building cases so arrests can be made.
Sheriff Funk said, "This is a widespread problem. There are very few families that won't be touched by drugs at some point. Prescribed medication crosses all socio'economic levels. All across the board prescription drugs are a problem. Don't be afraid to ask for help."
Allinson said, "We want to help people, we want to help get people back into the communities. We want to rehabilitate people. With education, family support, treatment and a change in lifestyle we can succeed."
Langston said, "Drug abuse is a serious problem. Sometimes professional help is required. Help is out there. Law enforcement is a key player, enforcement is part of it. People need to know, this (drugs) is illegal. There are repercussions and consequences for your actions."
Emery County is actively involved in drug court. Drug court is an alternative for sending people to jail. It gives people a chance to overcome their problem with addiction. Drug court participants are regularly tested for substance abuse. If they fail a drug test three times then they would lose their opportunity to participate in drug court and would return to the regular court system. The goal of drug court is to help offenders change their behavior and be held accountable for their actions.
Allinson said, "We want to create a partnership here. We are neighbors, we are a community. The time to ask for help is before you get busted. There is only so much we can do after you're caught. We have to adhere to policy. The time to solve the problems with the proper help is while you are still in the community. After you're caught, our hands are tied. There are consequences for the crimes."
One of the Moab officers said, he's often talked to parents who have said they knew it was coming, that their family member was headed for trouble, "Do something before it happens," instructed the officer, "Don't wait until they've been arrested."
Sheriff Funk said, "We are out here to serve. The community is our priority. We want safe streets. We want safe kids. We don't want any drug dealing in the schools. If we can get families to recognize problems and come forward before you're facing charges, that's the best way. Get help before it gets to that."