Sheriffs targets TC area ‘open-air drug markets’

Sheriff Jody Greene (front, in blue shirt) and deputies off of Clyde Norris Road east of Tabor City. (CCSO image)

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     “Open-air drug markets” in the Tabor City area have been targeted for attention by the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office, now partnering with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s office, Sherriff Jody Greene announced Thursday.

     Sheriff Greene, in a news release, said he and Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram “ are joining forces to saturate these open-air drug markets, utilizing innovative approaches. Deputies with both agencies will focus on high visibility policing, reverse sting operations, test purchase operations, intelligence-led investigations, and community involvement. Multi-agency involvement will increase the available resources to target these nuisance areas.”

     Green Acres, Clyde Norris Road, and nearby areas east of Tabor City are “hot sports for open-air drug markets,” the news release said. “Because of the proximity to South Carolina, there is a constant influx of illicit drug users driving to Tabor City to purchase drugs. There are multiple routes in and out of the area, which can complicate enforcement efforts.

     Sheriff Green called those drug areas “a nuisance to law enforcement, property owners and citizens. Drug dealers and illicit drug users gather in static, high traffic areas to use and sell drugs. These sites are usually located in economically depressed neighborhoods, at abandoned properties or parcels of land.

     “Open-air drug markets contribute to social disorder and drug related crimes that impact citizens’ quality of life. They lead to increased noise, vandalism, littering, damage to property, prostitution, robbery, burglary, assaults, and homicides. As a result, nearby property owners have a diminished sense of safety. Residents, especially senior residents, are intimidated by drug dealers and their customers. Parents who live near these open-air markets fear for the safety of their children.”

     Green Acres, Clyde Norris and nearby areas are well known to area residents, who “avoid due to the frequency of drug-related activities,” the news release said. “In the past year, approximately 200 calls were responded to in this specific problem area of Tabor City.

     “Columbus County Sheriff’s Office has conducted previous investigations in this area and have made multiple arrests. However, COVID-19 stalled court proceedings, resulting in most of those individuals still awaiting trial.”

     Green said he and the Brunswick Sheriff “have a solid plan to disrupt the drug market in the problem areas of Tabor City. The goal is to close all open-air drug markets which will decrease the frequency of violent and property crimes in this area.

     “We want citizens to feel safe in their own homes again.”