BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Drug Enforcement Administration is seeing a huge spike in violence related to drugs in Mississippi and across the country, making the agency's mission even more important than ever.
For the first time in Mississippi, the DEA hosted a two week class for state and local law enforcement officers.
"DEA, as opposed to a lot of other federal agencies, has one mission, and that's drug enforcement," Special Agent in Charge Keith Brown said. "What we have is we have been in this business for about 50 years, so we have a lot of institutional knowledge that's built up over the years. What we want to do is share that knowledge."
Brown said there's a wide variety of drugs being abused in South Mississippi. The most popular ones are prescription drugs, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana. The more trained officers there are working to get these drugs off the street, the safer the community will be.
"We are trying to do more training, more education, just learn more about it," Harrison County Sheriff's Office Lt. Brandon Hendry said. "Learn what the laws are and how we can enforce those to better benefit our community."
"I've gained a lot of knowledge in different types of narcotics and the way they are manufactured, produced and transported," Hattiesburg police Officer Jak Varnado said.
During the training, officers also learned how to test drugs without having to send them to a lab. They also received tactical medic training to be able to render aid during high stress situations, which greatly increase the chance of survival if someone is critically injured.
"I hope they become better police officers. I hope they become better men. I hope they go out there and make a difference in their communities. I hope that a little bit we've made them better at what they have chosen to do with their lives," said Brown.
Brown said with help from residents, they can be even more successful in the war on drugs.
"What we find is most people have an idea of who the drug dealers in their neighborhoods are," Brown said. "We might not know it, but if you tell us, then maybe we can do something about it. The other thing is to be strong. A lot of messages out there that drugs aren't bad, marijuana's not bad, oh this is ok. It's not ok. Call Crime Stoppers. Call local police departments. Call DEA. Let us know. If you don't want your kids to go down that path, help us take the people who put them on that path away."
Fifty five officers from throughout Mississippi and from Alabama completed the drug course.