Drug dealers do not have a free pass to deal their dope these days just because law enforcement’s countywide narcotics squad has been dissolved, officials said this week.
The Glynn-Brunswick Narcotics Enforcement Team ended nearly 18 years of combatting the local drug trade last month amid reports of wrongdoing by a Glynn County Police officer who was assigned to the squad. The unit, comprised of Brunswick Police Department officers and county police officers, had operated since 2001, interrupting the local drug trade with long term operations, raids on drug dens, seizures of large dope stockpiles, and arrests that put major local dealers in prison.
The loss of GBNET has put a crimp on long-range drug enforcement operations, Brunswick Police Chief Kevin Jones conceded Thursday. But the department’s patrol officers and detectives continue to make drug-related arrests, follow up on leads and pursue dealers within the city, he said.
“Let’s put is this way,” Jones said, “we are responding to any drug cases that our officers are coming across on the street and we’re taking action on those cases and making arrests.”
Just this Monday, a Brunswick officer made a routine traffic stop on Community Road that led to a foot chase, a scuffle and the arrest of two men and a woman for possession of methamphetamine, according to city police reports.
“This is by no means a vacation for drug dealers,” Jones said.
Glynn County Police Chief John Powell announced the disbanding of GBNET on March 29, the result of an internal affairs investigation that determined county officer James Cassada had sexual relations with two confidential informants while serving on the unit. Cassada resigned in early February, coinciding the demands that he submit to an interview with internal affairs investigators, police officials said. Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson said the incident affect the outcome of “a couple of hundred cases” against drug dealers arrested by GBNET.
In the absence of GBNET, Powell said his department also has officers working drug cases. “We still have people actively pursuing drug investigations,” Powell said Tuesday.
Jones said the decision to end GBNET was a mutual one reached by himself and Powell. “We decided that together, and then we talked to our folks (officers) about it together,” Jones said.
The Brunswick Police Department had five officers assigned to GBNET, four of them full-time. Of those, one was assigned to road patrol, two are on bicycle patrol and one is in the criminal investigations division. All are on temporary assignment in their new roles and likely will be part of a new countywide unit, he said.
“The folks we had in GBNET have just been temporarily reassigned,” he said.
GBNET is being replaced by the Brunswick-Glynn Special Investigations unit, Powell said. The joint unit of city and county officers will focus on narcotics as well as street gangs and other criminal activity, from prostitution to human trafficking, Powell said.
It is a good move to expand the scope of the unit to other crimes, Jones said. From street gangs that deal in drugs, trade in firearms and delve other criminal activities to the addicts who steal and commit other crimes to feed their habits, much of it is all interconnected, he said.
During Operation Déjà vu, GBNET officers rounded up nearly 60 suspected drug dealers in November, concluding a 10-month investigation that also netted 39 guns as well as large amounts of meth, the stimulant/hallucinogenic Molly and prescription pills. Successive raids on a home in the Touchtone community last July resulted the arrest of two on charges of dealing meth, as well as the seizure of a cache of stolen items that included a handgun.
“From petty crimes to burglaries and auto break-ins, a lot of it is tied to drug activity,” Jones said.
GBNET also worked closely over the years with other local law enforcement departments, as well as state and federal agencies, from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Powell said he has not determined when the new unit will be in operation. Jones indicated it will happen sooner than later.
“Of course, we are looking forward to getting the combined unit back together, so that we have officers directly focused on drug deals and drug use,” Jones said. “That way we can get back to being proactive rather than reactive.”