Drugs in Batesville

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 8, 2011

Batesville a ‘three’ DEA says of drugs

By Rupert Howell

Dwayne Smith with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) said Tuesday that Batesville and Panola County are “ground zero” for drug trafficking, blaming the proximity to Memphis, Jackson and I-55 as the main reason.

Speaking to the mayor and Board of Aldermen at Tuesday’s monthly meeting, Smith later estimated Batesville a three on a one to ten scale of drug problems.

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“I don’t know if it’s a secret that there’s a drug problem over here and it’s pretty bad,” Smith told the board.

Smith appeared before the board with Batesville Police officer Jamie Tedford who heads the city’s drug task force.

Smith was seeking approval for a member of BPD to serve with High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HDITA), a federal program that puts federal resources and manpower together with local officers to fight drugs in areas determined to have high intensity drug problems.

Smith likened the fight against illegal drugs as a full garbage can.

“We’re trying to keep the lid on the can,” Smith said.

Smith said that recent local pressure had put some of the drug dealers away from Batesville toward more rural areas and gave an example of one operation moving to Yalobusha County.

He also cited an instance of a distributor having $100,000 in cash in a local bank in a safe deposit box.

“The man didn’t have a job,” Smith said.

In another operation, sacks of $1 bills were found in a trash can during a bust. Smith said the culprit explained, “It was just ones.”

Officer Tedford told board members that he supports working with the federal agency as they get “better convictions than local or state.”

Tedford also reminded aldermen that participating agencies who contribute personnel receive the benefit of the entire agency when additional personnel is needed.

He said  technology resources of the federal agency were also made available and that the local officer would work local cases.

Concerning Panola County’s Drug Task Force which is now separate from the recently formed Batesville Task Force, Smith said, “In a perfect world we like for all of us to be on the same sheet of music.”

The board appeared to be in agreement with participating in the program but took no official action as only Police Chief Tony Jones’s signature was required.