Mississippi Sheriffs Meet In Hancock County

Rural sheriffs say they're used to handling things like noise complaints. But more and more, they must confront illegal drugs. Mississippi sheriffs say they're now on the front line of America's war on drugs.

"Crystal meth seems to be the growing problem in talking to sheriff's across the state," Hancock County Sheriff Steve Garber said. "I think it's a problem not only in Hancock County, it's a growing problem throughout the state. That's why we're talking today, a lot of sheriffs about different things we can do to concur this problem."

Sheriff Garber and his deputies confronted that this week. Garber said it was an illegal meth lab that exploded in a mobile home in rural Hancock County Monday. Sheriff's say it's a growing problem everywhere.

"My understanding in 1998, there were 26 meth labs seized statewide. Four years later in 2002, our four-county area in the last six months got 24. For a rural county that's a good many of them," Smith County Sheriff Charlie Crumpton said.

"What we realize in Forrest County is the meth problem is more of white population problem and crack cocaine is more of a black population problem. I can't get a feel for why that is, but the numbers show that's what's happening," Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee said.

The sheriffs say they need assistance from the courts to combat the problem.

"Some of us are calling for a 30-year sentence, and with the situation with our corrections department being full, most of them are getting six instead of 30," Sheriff Crumpton said. "I think we could bump that up would help tremendously."

The Mississippi Association of Sheriffs wraps up its four-day summer conference Thursday. It's the first time the Association has held a conference in Hancock County.

By Al Showers