CANA —An informal discussion on April 22 at St. Paul School between Carroll County Sheriff J.B. Gardner and more than 50 Cana residents was a learning experience for both sides. The goal for the event organized by Parent Teacher Organization President Donnette Moore was kicking drugs out of the community.
According to Moore, the frank exchange created a “jumping off point.” Notables in attendance included Gardner, Delegate Jeff Campbell’s Legislative Aide Jed Arnold, and County Supervisors Phil McCraw and Rex Hill. Moore said volunteers intend to get on a future Supervisor’s meeting agenda and approaching them for assistance in securing grants to establish a police sub-station in the community.
“We’ve got a problem and I didn’t really know how bad it was,” said Moore before she opened up the floor to Gardner. “The Cana I grew up in has changed and it wasn’t a good change. It’s good to see by this turnout people are willing to work together to take back the community. We’re not here to point fingers.”
She pointed to a recent overdose of a juvenile in the Family Dollar parking lot and break-ins in local churches as evidence of changes.
Gardner told participants he needed to give them perspective on the issue and said the answer ultimately “is in this room and the small community churches.” He said methamphetamines (meth) had been around since World War II with the biggest changes coming when the illegal drug started being made from over-the-counter ingredients. He said methamphetamines are an old problem but a violent problem now. Gardner said he had Carroll County High Teacher Fred Mitchell, who has a background in chemistry, to check the results of a quick Google search for meth recipes.
“He could tell as a chemist that four out of the first 10 would kill you. It scared the crap out of me,” Gardner said. “It’s a problem for everyone. It doesn’t care who you are, who our family is. You all know that. It’s your families.”
He said this new meth turns off inhibitions and those hooked on it have no fear of getting caught. He said the return of meth reminded him of heroin, which is back due to its low cost. He said both are a problem nationally. Gardner frankly said he didn’t know where the money would come from to fund education and outreach to solve the problem. He likened meth addiction to a disease and said part of an answer must involve treatment and said citizens could benefit from the insights of recovered addicts.
“I don’t think we’ve ever witnessed a time in this country where you will be persecuted more for being a Christian than a child molester,” said Gardner. “There has been a moral change in this country and it has happened in one lifetime for many. There has never before been a time like this. I’m not blaming anybody. I’m just saying there’s a bigger picture than just putting someone in jail, so let’s have a discussion here.” He noted the frustration of officers over sentencing of offenders.
Citizen comments ranged from insecurity following their homes being broken into to officer response times. One participant told Gardner they have to lock the door when they are having church (on Oak Ridge Road) and another said she had to ask a car to “move it on down the road” so children could have an egg hunt following church. Another citizen said Southwest Virginia lacked enough mental health professionals to cover the crisis and suggested lottery money be used to address this shortage.
Participants asked why three deputies are typically used on Interstate traffic regulation enforcement. Gardner said the officers are working overtime beyond their scheduled hours on this assignment, which generates money to cover regular Department costs (salaries, overtime and fuel).
“A sheriff’s department is different than a town police department. We have a civil process,” Gardner said, noting his Department’s varied tasks include courtroom security, prisoner transports and courthouse security. He said Temporary Detention Orders (TDOs) and Emergency Custody Order (ECOs) calls can take eight hours for initial observation with a requirement of 15 hospitals being called to find a bed for a patient. A long-distance transport requires two deputies directly impacting a typical five-officer shift.
Gardner said, “We put more people down here (Cana) than anywhere in the county,” and on average the Department has more calls below the mountain than anywhere in the county. He said he and Supervisor Phil McCraw had been unsuccessful in obtaining an occupancy permit for a sub-station building.
“I don’t have all the answers. I’m telling you that up front,” Gardener said as he was pressed by participants for solutions to the situation.”I’m excited you are all here to talk about this. You’re doing what you should be doing. If we don’t try, then what is the point?”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.