CAIRO — The new Grady County Sheriff's Office's Drug Task Force is looking to get residents involved in taking down drug distributors.
"Most of the time a lot of our drug cases are solved, or at least initiated by, concerned citizens," said Chris Luckey, the group's commander.
The task force was founded earlier this year to focus specifically on handling drug- and gang-related crimes. Previously, Luckey and fellow investigators Michael Logue and Jake Bush worked narcotics cases on top of general crimes such as child molestations and burglaries, but the setup often meant that critical drug investigations were being placed on the back burner.
Now, for the first time in more than a decade, the sheriff's office has its own dedicated drug unit.
"The problem is, because it's been unattended for so many years, it's going to take us a long time to catch up," Luckey said.
So far this year the unit has already identified 20-30 suspected drug distributors operating within Grady County, but Luckey said they'll need help from the public in order to capture criminals in the act.
"We can't be everywhere," he said. "We've got a big county, and you can imagine with the three of us trying to cover it, it's pretty difficult."
Citizens who spot suspicious activity are encouraged to call 911 immediately. Individuals who submit information can remain anonymous.
Luckey also encouraged residents to be mindful of the license plates of suspicious individuals, which he said can be a huge starting point for investigations.
One of the main goals of the drug squad is to build back trust in the community among citizens who are tired of the county's growing drug problem.
This year alone there have already been two confirmed overdose deaths, Luckey said, with another three near-fatal overdoses stopped by officers carrying a life-saving antidote.
Luckey also wished to remind the public that just because the drug squad's actions aren't always publicized in the news doesn't mean they aren't hard at work. Oftentimes smaller suspects or informants are used to take down bigger targets.
"You have to use a small fish to catch a big fish," Luckey said. "If you put their names out there, it kills your investigation."
Some cases take months or even years to complete, such as one investigation that concluded in December with the arrest of 17 suspected drug distributors after three years of gathering evidence with the help of the FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The organization taken down was moving an average of 20 kilos of methamphetamine each day in Grady County alone.
Drug distribution networks don't stop at the county line either, Luckey said. There are extensive distribution efforts operating within the county with connections to operations in Florida, Alabama and Tennessee. In certain cases, the sheriff's office has even gotten tips as far away as Texas and California.
Luckey, who describes himself as a "very opinionated" person, said he believes distributing drugs, particularly to children, is a crime akin to attempted murder. One message he wished to make clear is that he isn't afraid of who he has to take down to put an end to the practice within the county.
"We don't care what your name is in this community," Luckey said. "We don't care who you are. If you're distributing drugs or you're involved in crime, you're going to go down."