By MICHELLE WRIGHT
Drug-related arrests are increasing in Woodstock and Holly Springs, Georgia, as the Cherokee Multiple Agency Narcotics Squad is proving successful with high profile felony cases. However, being high profile is not what the task force is striving for.
Since the creation of the task force in 1993, the objective has been to conduct undercover investigations that would result in the identification and prosecution of individuals active in large volume drug distribution. However, the organization’s success has gained statewide media attention and has some of the participating agencies at odds with the publicity.
“The safety of our residents and law enforcement is paramount. That will never change. However, our necessity for operating under the radar is of equal importance,” said Roger Garrison, Cherokee County sheriff.
A two year undercover investigation that began in 2012 exposed a Mexican drug cartel operating in Cherokee County and put the spotlight on the task force.
That investigation resulted in the arrest of 10 Woodstock residents and the confiscation of over 15 pounds of cocaine and heroin.
This was also the catalyst for the growing public interest in the activities of the law enforcement collaboration. It has also created concern.
“We always want to remain transparent with our methods of investigation,” Thomas Pinyan, Captain Cherokee County criminal investigations said. “If we were to make public the progress of active surveillance we would be jeopardizing not only the integrity of the investigation, but compromising the safety of our community and law enforcement.”
Residents of Cherokee County are in agreement.
“I certainly don’t want a helicopter view of my home to be on the evening news if the police are arresting my neighbor,” said Laurie Campbell, a homeowner. “I wouldn’t want to put my children in harm’s way or have the media give the criminals a heads up that the authorities are on the way.”
Federal funding for the organization’s operation ended in 2003, when the task force no longer received the state’s support. Local law enforcement has picked up the tab to continue the effort and has maintained its collaboration with the GBI, FBI and the ATF.