The Tallapoosa County Narcotics Task Force had a record year in 2005 with an 85 percent arrest rate and 11 drug trafficking cases.
"This is one of our biggest years," said narcotics task force investigator Jay Turner.
The task force consists mainly of members from the Tallapoosa County Sheriff's Department and the Alexander City and Dadeville Police Departments. "It's a cooperative effort ... to address illegal drug activities in the county," said Tallapoosa County Sheriff Jimmy Abbett.
Recently, the narcotics team released statistics on their operations for the last 10 years. This is the first time the task force has ever released such statistics, Turner said.
According to the statistics, since its creation in 1995, the task force has had a steady increase in the number of arrests, charges and open cases. For 2005, there were 396 open cases, 562 charges and 258 arrests. When the team started in 1995, they only had 160 open cases, 168 charges and 112 arrests.
The task force has also had a relatively steady increase in the number of drugs seized. Last year, 5,000 grams of marijuana, 440 grams of crack and 308 grams of cocaine were seized by the team. During their first year, only 1481 grams of marijuana, and 43 grams of crack were seized. There were no seizures of cocaine.
"They're getting out and catching some of these people," said chief Steve Freeman of the Dadeville Police Department.
Turner said the increases are due, not to an increase in drug use by county residents, but by an increase in the personnel of the task force. "When we first started, we didn't have the manpower," Abbett said.
"Right now, we have five full time," Turner said. When the team was first created, there were only three personnel assigned. The narcotics team also has several part-timers. "We're seeing an increase in enforcement," Abbett said.
Turner also said the increases were due to more experience. "The years have created more experienced investigators," he said. Several investigators have recently received special training, including SWAT training and training for CLAW (Clandestine Lab and Mass Destruction Safety Verification).
And because of the increased personnel and experience, the team has been able to target larger drug suppliers. "It's not something we've had the ability to do before," Turner said. Originally, the task force was created to target only street level drug dealers.
And since the narcotic team's creation, both Turner and Freeman have seen a decrease in drug use and trafficking in the county. "But it's still here,' Freeman said. "They change up, we have to change along with them."
That most recent change has been in the use of methamphetamines. "It's the new drug we're having to deal with now," Abbett said. However, he said that the Alabama state legislature has done an excellent job in passing laws to fight meth addiction.
Currently, the task force has nothing new planned for 2006 other than continuing to fight drug trafficking and abuse as they have in the past.
"I feel like everybody has done a good job," Turner said.
Tallapoosa County census. Population 41,475