on December 1, 2007 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Drugs in Oconee County, part 2 — Eye of the undercover

SENECA — The fate of Seneca’s drug trade rests on two sets of eyes.

For the two agents making up Seneca Police Department’s narcotics unit, the trade can be dangerous for one key reason.

“We’ve got boundaries,” one of the agents said, “and the dope dealers don’t.”

The agents, speaking to the Daily Journal/Daily Messenger on the condition on anonymity, speak of the wide demographics involved with Seneca’s drug environment, and the frustration and success that make the job unique to local police operations.

“They are an awesome team of officers,” said Seneca Police Chief Stanley Sheriff. “These guys are very, very on task.”

The officers are credited for helping city police arrest 135 suspects in 2007 on drug-related charges, almost double the arrests made in 2006.

The scene might be larger than arrests count indicate, however.

“It’s a goldmine here,” one officer said.

“Bigger than people think,” the other added.

Those involved in the trade can be as young as 15 and as old as 78, one officer said. The trade isn’t limited to one substance either, as the investigators say they put equal efforts into a wide variety of drugs, from marijuana to methamphetamine.

“We’re not chasing one tail,” an officer said. “We’re chasing them all.”

WATCHING THE TRADE

Chasing a dealer’s tails sometimes means patience in a process not often covered in television crime shows. For one, doing their job means trying to end the drug dealer’s job.

“We’re trying to cut his work down,” an officer said. “When you take someone’s life work away, it can be very serious.”

Also difficult at times is getting alleged dealers behind bars. The officers said it could get frustrating when they see a case and can’t act out because of the time needed to file warrants and complete other legal hurdles and paperwork.

“We fight our battle, then pass the sword to somebody else,” the officer said.

Then there’s the anonymity. While street patrollers have some flexibility in reporting their whereabouts, the two officers said they sometimes couldn’t even tell their family members where they are.

“They sacrifice more than we do,” said an officer referring to his family.

CUTTING THE TAIL

What’s the key to a narcotics officer’s success? Sheriff and the officers agreed that public input is crucial to investigations. The officers said every call made to the department’s anonymous narcotics hotline, 864-888-0859, is considered when investigating. Sheriff said a significant inflow of calls helps an army of two officers become a larger league against dealers. Support from neighboring agencies also helps the force, officers said.

“Pretty soon it doesn’t look like one or two individuals when you have the community,” Sheriff said.

“We keep cutting the tail off until we get to the head,” an officer said.

“I feel like we’re getting somewhere with our city and our county,” the other added.