OLD COMMENT Comment over 2 years old. Has not been updated
Wilmington Star News graph showing numbers
of charges and seizures related to City-County Vice and Narcotics Unit
City- County Vice and Narcotics drug lock-up area within the Sheriff's Department. Wilmington Star Photo
Compare the amount of seizures throughout the State. In 2001 we seized only 4 pounds of cocaine. Compare that to the rest of the State.
Failed Drug Program - Marc Benson CCJR Executive Director
WEIGHING IN ON THE DIVISION BETWEEN CAUSEY AND CEASE and how we all can better serve our community by aiding in the elimination of the drug crime here in New Hanover County through a formative citizen action group.
On November 5th, Sid Causey received only 52% of the vote for New Hanover County Sheriff to defeat me in a closely contested election. Although my campaign’s enthusiastic efforts were unsuccessful, I remain passionate for the protection of our community and will continue the call for effective, pro-active law enforcement. I am a firm believer in accountability, be it the accountability for failed policy or the accountability of fiscal and ethical malfeasances.
My combined 23 years of law enforcement experience alone should afford me some authority when I address issues related to local law enforcement. As a past member of the City-County Vice and Narcotics Unit and as supervisor of the Organized Crime Drug Task Force my comments regarding drug crime with-in our community are based on first hand experience as a frontline combatant. When I point out flaws in policy and procedure, I speak as a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy. I am not running for office nor am I currently employed as a law enforcement officer anywhere in New Hanover County. I can speak candidly without fear of any sort of retribution. This is not an essay of political rhetoric, instead it is a philosophical comment to one of our community’s concerns. The concern being the ineffectiveness of the City-County Vice and Narcotics Unit, the disbanding of that unit and the inordinate amount of crime associated with drug trafficking.
I am speaking out in order to:
• Present factual data to the media, City Council and County Commissioners regarding the success and failures of our efforts to fight crime locally.
• Educate, empower and collate an influential group of citizens who have a voice of concern regarding crime and police matters and will act to solve problematic issues.
• Promote and reward those who do all that they can to see to it that we live in a safe and just community.
That said, I would like to offer the following observations, comments and suggestions as a response to the April 16, 2003 Wilmington Star News article titled Police chief, sheriff divided over drug unit. First let’s take a historical look at an editorial in the Wilmington Star News published Mar 8, 2003 titled Drug fighters no longer allies
“Drug dealers, gamblers
and pimps must be chortling. The Wilmington Police Department has stopped
working with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Department to fight drugs
and vice. From now on, police officers and deputies will work separately
on their common problems. City residents will pay taxes to support both
departments – and wonder whether they're getting their money's worth.
Crimes, like robbery or property crimes, are rarely if ever committed by hungry folk wanting to feed their children. On March 14, 2002 then Col. Sid Causey, the Drug Unit head for past 15 years, was quoted in the Wilmington Star News as saying that “Drugs cause almost all the crime in the County.” So you would take it to mean that an increase in crime would mean an increase in the illegal drug trade. Since 1993 National crime figures have been down as much as 53%. Locally we have seen an increase of as much as 51% in drug related crimes. A recent study in the Morgan Quitno Press indicated that we were the 8th worst crime infested area of the entire country. This ranking placed us just below Compton, California. Compton is recognized as an impoverished and struggling suburb of Los Angeles. We, on the other hand, are an “All American City” with all the beauty and personality that goes with that title. Yet fact is that illegal drugs are at epidemic proportions here in New Hanover County just as they are in Compton.
So can we turn this crime epidemic around by separating the city drug unit from the county? Is this all it will take to turn the tide on the drug traffickers? As a 23-year veteran law enforcement officer I seriously doubt it.
So what do I suggest? First I would like to offer the obvious suggestion, admit that we have a serious problem, and then make the necessary steps to stop drug related crime. That means aggressively attacking the traffickers. Hardcore policing and investigative tactics. Make corrections to the existing antiquated programs. City Council and County Commissioners should form a panel to investigate how counties such as Robeson (3 drug agents), Forsyth (seizes 4-5 pounds of cocaine a week, we do that much in a year), Guilford (48 people in prison for trafficking, we have 3), Wake (statistically has 50% less property crime than us) are much more successful with less resources than we already have. Look at how our strapped neighbors in Pender, Brunswick and Sampson County are doing compared to us. I know the panel would find that with the right aggressive strategies and proper community support, we could see a positive change in our embarrassing crime.
Lastly but most importantly we have to be accountable. The failure to stop the drug trafficking in our area has harmed our community. Is it our social problems or race issues that causes such high crime rates? Is it our court system? Are the judges too lenient? Are the laws too forgiving? Do we need more jobs? Do we need more police, more money and manpower? Are our elected officials concerned enough? Who or what is at fault here? When I read in the paper where Causey points to the City-County drug unit’s history of arrests I wonder if the reporter researches what that figure means. Did he look into the number of convictions stemming from those arrests, the number of people (individuals) arrested not the total number of charges an individual is facing prior to his plea with the District Attorney’s office. Did he also know the severity of the crimes that warranted the arrests, how many were successfully prosecuted for trafficking? The reporter needs to know if that arrest number represents an indication of a successful program or perhaps failed leadership. Likewise we need to look at comments like that made by Chief Cease when he stated that both State and Federal drug agents routinely conduct investigations without informing local police. Is that something that is good or bad for us locally? Do we need to get our Federal and State elected officials involved with policy? How does that affect the accountability of the programs we implement locally? Speaking of accountability we need to hold our officials accountable. Accountable for the funding of failed programs and the otherwise ill advised support for the budgets and manpower of the departments that do not prove to be effective. We rely on media reporting to get our facts. When the media does not do their job how are the majority of us expected to ever know the truth? We have to be informed about these matters as citizens because we have to be prepared to offer our own opinions to our community leaders. It is our opinions that matter most at our polling places on Election Day. So we all need to be accountable and do all we can to protect our city, our homes and our families by being informed with correct information.
The problem is more than Causey or Cease or all the finger pointing. The problem is that we have crime levels at epidemic proportions because of the amount of illegal drugs available on our streets. Something has to be done about it right now. We know we can do it. We have many talented and devoted officers sworn to protect and serve our community. We must support them and trust them to do their jobs.
I would like to make a statement that should appeal to those of a sound economic interest. Drug users cost the County and its taxpayers approximately $11 million of our local dollars due to loss of property, lower quality of work, medical costs, violence, and judicial costs (this figure excludes law enforcement costs!). Not to mention what it possibly costs us in lost tourism dollars. What about the damaged young people, our future workforce and potential earners? What of the consumers and entrepreneurs who boost our income and let us not forget the influx of new residents who protect our property values? It is prudent that we act now to protect our investment in our community.
I will also make a point to the congregation of our community places of prayer and worship of all faiths. There are locally over 100 deaths each year due to illegal drug activity. These deaths are directly related to local drug crime. Deaths that cause families’ certain pain and suffering. Death of our hope comes in many forms and I fear the toll of those with lost hope is greater due to the influences of illegal drugs. Drug crime cost us all greatly, we need to move together and do something to stop it.
I am open for discussion, consultation and/or service to aid and assist in efforts to bring about a more aware and diligent community by forming a citizens group that will unite together in support of an aggressive attack on drug related crimes and will hold accountable the individuals or groups responsible for the successes and/or failures of the policy and procedure as it relates to protecting and serving our neighbors safely. I encourage citizens of similar passion to join me and the others who are equally committed by emailing me at email@example.com. Hopefully together we will be able to make a difference by becoming efficient stewards of our community’s resources, by acting as a focal point of reference gathering information and compiling statistical/ factual data regarding crime and reporting those findings to those with interest. Serving our community with our eyes, ears and our voices in all things related to but not limited to the discipline of criminal justice. (A recognized definition of criminal justice includes a concern for the study of the etiology of crime and its control, the decision network devoted to crime control, and the administration of the many public and private agencies involved in the processing of criminal offenders.)
I humbly submit this correspondence with sincerity and great hope as both a neighbor and a proud resident of Wilmington. I anticipate your comments and will do my best to answer you back in a rapid manner. Thank you for your time in reading this essay.
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We did not see this interview but would suggest that if it is indeed what Causey said, he may have issued a threat to Chief Cease that he will not only hinder the City's drug crime investigations but that he (Causey) may not provide back-up protection to City officers in crisis.
We will request a transcript of the interview in question and post it here when we receive it.
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