Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer
This month, the Franklin Police Department has responded to two calls involving drug overdoses and assisted medical personnel who issued the overdose reversal medication Narcan. Franklin Police Chief David Adams said that those drug overdoses were both related to heroin, a problem he says is becoming more and more prevalent within the town of Franklin.
“In the past we have seen a lot of methamphetamine related crimes, but it seems like lately, we are seeing more and more heroin,” Chief Adams said of drug related crimes his department deals with. According to Adams, the majority of the crimes that occur within the city limits, outside of traffic offenses, are all drug related. “I would say the majority of the calls we answer are related to drugs somehow. It may not lead to a drug arrest, but drugs are usually always involved somehow.”
From Oct. 1 until this week, the Franklin Police Department had made 35 arrests. Of those 35 arrests, 15 arrests were specifically for drugs. This week alone, the FPD made six arrests, all of which were for drugs. The 15 arrests made included 10 possession of methamphetamine arrests, four arrests for possession of schedule II or schedule IV substances, and one arrest for possession of heroin.
Despite the number of drug arrests made by the Franklin Police Department and the amount of drug related activity within the city limits, the FPD does not have a narcotics unit or anything specifically assigned to focus on the drug epidemic.
“Our investigators and detectives do a lot of drug work, but most of the time we have to rely on help from outside agencies,” said Chief Adams. “We often turn to the Macon County Sheriff’s Office or the State Bureau of Investigations when it comes to drugs within the town.”
Chief Adams said he would like to see the resources available to his department in regards to fighting the drug epidemic improve. Chief Adams said he already works to make sure his patrol officers and other members of the department receive specialty training in drug enforcement, even if they aren’t specifically assigned to a narcotics unit.
This month, Chief Adams said his officers will begin carrying Narcan/Naloxone. His patrol officers have been trained on how to safely administer the drug, which reverses the affects of opioids, and the town has provided the funding to equip every patrol car. Now that every officer is trained, Chief Adams expects deputies to begin carrying the drug this month. With Franklin Police Officers carrying the drug, they will join Macon County Emergency Services and all but one fire department in the county which are already outfitted with the drug. In 2016, EMS administered the drug 16 times. So far in 2017, that number has more than doubled, with EMS distributing the life saving drug on 40 patients, with two additional administrations by fire departments. Fire departments have carried the drug since May. The Macon County Sheriff’s Office does not currently carry the drug, but Sheriff Robert Holland is working to implement a policy to do so in the future.
Chief Adams said that another way that Franklin Police Department can address the drug epidemic in Franklin without deploying an entire unit would be adding a K9 officer to the department. Franklin Police Officer Matt Pellicer used to be a K9 handler, but after his K9 was no longer in service, he wasn’t replaced within the department. During the 2014-15 budget year, Chief Adams requested funding to revise the department’s K9 department. While interim town manager Warren Cabe included the funding in his proposed budget to the town, town officials ended up cutting the funding in the final budget after Summer Woodard became manager. Chief Adams said he would like to see a K9 added in the near future.
Highlands Police Department has one full service patrol unit with plans to add another one in the coming months due to a need in the community. The Macon County Sheriff’s Office is also expanding its K9 unit to help combat the county’s drug epidemic, with plans to add two K9s within the year.
Franklin Mayor Bob Scott said funding the policing of drugs is hard, and from a personal perspective believes more money should be spent on treatment. “I feel that government in general should be allocating more funds for treatment and education,” said Scott. “The current ‘War on Drugs’ has been shown to not be effective. It is past time for new ideas on this growing problem. New ideas are needed in going forward to finding a cure for drug addiction and keeping people off these highly addictive drugs.”
Chief Adams said that to address the drug epidemic plaguing the county, which is just as prevalent and deadly within the city limits in the short term, his department plans to continue turning to outside agencies who are better staffed to address the issues.
“We often lend our resources to the police department and are happy to do so because they are more limited than we are,” said Sheriff Holland. “They are much smaller than the MCSO. The reality is those who commit crimes and are involved in drug activities don’t concern themselves with jurisdictional boundary lines and we must work together. We are blessed to have a huge support system with our county commissioners and the general public as a whole. It’s obvious that public safety is a priority to them. A law enforcement agency must have the support of their community and their government leadership to be successful in addressing the issues along with the means to do so. Unfortunately that is where comes to down to funding – money. I was disappointed during this last municipal election because not once did I hear or read anything from any of the candidates about how they will or will not support their police department. Yes I am biased … but I expect them to publicly support those who are on the front lines addressing the issues the general public are very much concerned about. I hear it daily from the citizens.”