Local law enforcement addresses Panhandle drug problem

Crime

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Many large drug busts have taken place over the past several weeks as the Panama City Police Department and Bay County Sheriff’s Office work to address the ongoing drug problem devastating the Panhandle. 

Drugs have not only plagued the community but also have the potential to get even worse.

Recently the Panama City Police Department has taken nearly 43,000 lethal doses of fentanyl off of the streets. Corporal Kristain Shaw said one arrest won’t fix the massive drug problem Bay County is facing.

“It’s to the point where these fentanyl users are carrying Narcan on them. They like to get to the closest point of death they can. That’s the highest point they can get,” said Cpl. Shaw.

Authorities say fentanyl is being laced into other drugs.

“We’re seeing that not only in pressed pills. Were seeing cocaine that’s laced with fentanyl. We’re seeing synthetic marijuana. We’re seeing different types of pressed pills, different powder forms, different colors,” said Cpl. Shaw.

Fentanyl isn’t the only drug being abused in the Panhandle.

“Opioid crisis is at a high time locally. Since about 2017, we have been seeing a big uptick in the presence of heroin. So 2017 heroin came into the local scene, then about 6 months to a year ago heroin turned into fentanyl. We started seeing more fentanyl than heroin,” said Cpl. Shaw.

Earlier this month, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office confiscated 28 pounds of marijuana and methamphetamine combined.

Sheriff Tommy Ford said a majority of the drugs coming into Bay County have been from outside the country.

“It represents the danger of not having a secure border. These drugs are flowing into the country. We have received information from the drug enforcement agency about a large stockpile of methamphetamine at the Southwest border during the coronavirus that would begin flowing into the country and we’re certainly seeing that,” said Sheriff Ford.

Despite recent arrests, Sheriff Ford said bringing these dealers to justice isn’t going to fix the problem entirely. 

“Again it doesn’t just affect one person. This isn’t just like ‘okay, well they’re going to do drugs and it just affects them. It’s not going to affect anyone else…’ it affects their family, their spouses, their mothers, their fathers, their kids, it just destroys the whole family’s lives. It makes our community not as strong as a result.” said Sheriff Ford.

For years, the Sheriff’s Office has been trying to help rehabilitate drug users and create a safer community through their program at the Bay County Jail. 

“We do have a rehabilitation program at the jail that we do try to provide them with help to try to get off these drugs so they can continue with a productive life. But it really is so destructive to the community as a whole,” said Sheriff Ford.

If you would like information about the county’s drug rehabilitation programs, follow the link below: http://www.dc.state.fl.us/development/readiness.html

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