Delta sheriff wants drug task force revived

Published 5:34 pm Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks says it’s time to seek money to restart the North Central Narcotics Task Force, which was disbanded earlier this year.

A Mississippi Department of Public Safety grant was cut off after officials raised questions about how money was being spent. However, an audit by the U.S. Justice Department in May found no missing or misspent grant money.

Banks says a group is needed to enforce drug laws in his region. He says he currently has no officer working drug cases in his Delta county.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Banks says the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics has only one officer working 10 counties and the Greenwood Police Department has only two or three drug officers doing the job in the city.

Seven counties would participate in the proposed task force: Leflore, Grenada, Holmes, Humphreys, Coahoma, Tunica and Claiborne. Banks said Yazoo County is no longer involved.

He is asking the Leflore County Board of Supervisors for permission to apply for a Department of Public Safety grant.

The sheriff says help is needed to clean up the drug trade in neighborhoods.

“What comes with drugs is all types of other crime,” he said, attributing a rash of recent car burglaries to users stealing to buy more drugs.

The North Central Narcotics Task Force was started in 1986 to target street-level drug sales. It had had eight employees, six of whom were undercover narcotics agents.

Banks said the task force might end up with less money and fewer officers this time because the grant money statewide was cut 60 percent.

The sheriff said, however, that an armed robbery in Sidon last week and other crimes make it clear that the drug problem is getting worse.

“We need to go after it with all the weapons we’ve got,” he said.