Week six of the Brunswick Sheriff’s Citizens Academy focused on the Vice Narcotics Unit. As stated on the Sheriff’s Office website, the primary mission of the Vice Narcotics Unit is to investigate and detect narcotic violations, illegal alcohol sales, gambling, prostitution, and other illegal vices throughout Brunswick County.
One particularly compelling statistic was provided during tonight’s session: the United States has 10% of the world’s population, but consumes more than 80% of the narcotics produced worldwide. Wow.
A few key points about the Vice Narcotics Unit:
- The unit’s focus is to fight large scale narcotics trafficking; essentially, they want to cut the head off of the snake
- The unit targets those who profit the most from illegal operations
- Citizens tend to see smaller fish (users and dealers who use or resell narcotics obtained from large scale dealers)
- Most of the drugs in our county come from outside of the county or even outside of the country
- Due to the nature of the criminals they are trying to stop, the Officers in this unit place themselves at personal risk.
At present, the most common drug the Vice Narcotics Unit deals with in Brunswick County is heroin — a fact that surprised many of the members of our class. Other common drugs they see are marijuana, cocaine, prescription medications, ecstasy and methamphetamines.
The Officers pointed out that the marijuana they see today is much more potent than what they saw in the 1970s. They said that the THC content in today’s marijuana is 80% higher than it was in the ’70s (THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main active ingredient in the cannabis plant).
We also discussed how drugs from out of the country make it into the U.S. During this conversation, one of the Officers very candidly stated his fear that terrorists could use the same means of entering the U.S. that drug traffickers use — a concern that I and I believe many others share. When he made this remark, I thought of the scenes near the end of Act of Valor during which terrorists attempted to use underground tunnels to sneak into the United States from Mexico.
The agents also talked about the general drug culture and lifestyle. They said that for drug traffickers and dealers, their life is about beating our defenses and making money. Beyond making money, their primary motivation in life is protecting themselves.
In addition to the classroom instruction, we also broke down into three groups and conducted hands-on exercises. First, we searched a room, which included an Officer posing as a very uncooperative suspect, for drugs and drug paraphernalia. Next, we learned how to field-test a substance for the presence of cocaine. Finally, we searched a vehicle for drugs and drug paraphernalia.
One lesson was abundantly clear from the hands-on exercises: drug dealers and users are extremely creative in the steps they will take to conceal drugs.
This was one of the more interesting and eye-opening sessions thus far. The Officers in the Vice Narcotics Unit truly risk their lives on a daily basis to keep drugs — which they described as “poison” — off of our streets.