Drug Enforcement Unit staff cut nearly in half by change in stat - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Drug Enforcement Unit staff cut nearly in half by change in state law, change could come Tuesday night

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Since June, the Drug Enforcement Unit that has been fighting to get drugs off our streets has been dwindling in numbers.

Several of the officers in the unit can no longer arrest drug offenders outside of their jurisdictions because of a change in state law. However, the group could get back on track with its work tonight with the help of Horry County Council.

"This team really focuses on the drug trafficker or the drug seller," 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said.

The officers that make up the group come from all over the county, including Myrtle Beach Police Department, North Myrtle Beach Police Department and Coastal Carolina University's Police Department. These officers are going after the sources of drugs in our area.

"If you don't dry up the source...you're never going to get a handle on the drug problem," Richardson said.

However, these officers have been held back from doing their jobs because of changes at the state level. Right now, they can’t arrest drug traffickers that are located outside of their respective jurisdictions.

"We had a memorandum of understanding that had been in place for about 10 years, but in this last legislative session they changed the law to actually help make it a little easier on multi-jurisdictional task forces. But it also required a new memorandum of understanding," Richardson said.

This problem specifically affects the officers from Horry County that work within the DEU. The new paperwork needed to keep the group working together has yet to be signed.

"There's just a lot of things at play," Richardson said. "We had a new police chief that was coming in and hadn't even gotten here at the time all of that was happening...so county council wanted the new chief to review the documents to see if he wanted to be a part of it."

Richardson said Horry County Police Chief Joe Hill said yes, and the new paperwork will go before Horry County Council Tuesday night for their signatures.

Richardson is confident that the council will approve to continue the DEU, and he believes it's also necessary for the fight against drugs in our area.

"I think it's critical to getting that big supply off the street, having someone that can target drug traffickers," Richardson said. "Without that you're constantly fighting a losing battle."

Richardson says while those officers without cross-jurisdiction right now have not been able to make arrests under DEU outside of their respective cities or towns, they have been able to gather information and prepare for future drug busts.

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