The Columbia County Sheriff's Office routinely puts up some stellar stats for its success in keeping the community safe. Even as population in the county grows, a strong focus on neighborhood policing has helped decrease the crime rate in most categories.
But among the more important numbers are these: Two.
That's how many street-corner drug markets Columbia County used to have before a focus from the sheriff's office and the feds. A site near the Little League field off Old Belair Road has been cleaned out for nearly 10 years. But King Villa, near Appling, proved to be far more stubborn.
In fact, King Villa residents like Mary Johnson and Roscoe Bussey have long labored to clean up their little community, while the sheriff's office worked to clean out the drug dealers who polluted its spirit.
The final flush came with a federal drug bust a little more than a year ago, sweeping nine dealers and their minions out of the neighborhood.
Now, says Capt. Steve Morris, street-corner sales in the neighborhood are "all but eliminated."
The qualifiers need to come off that comment. Curbside drug sales ought to be eliminated in Columbia County, period. The Sheriff's Office does what it can, but it must rely on neighbors to be the eyes and ears of deputies who cannot possibly be posted on every street corner.
Citizens of the community also need to pay attention to the paraphernalia sold in their corner stores. Far too many of the chain-operated convenience stores in the county sell "cigarette" rolling papers - used for nothing but rolling marijuana - and tubular "blunt" cigars sold for the same purpose.
Are the products legal? Absolutely. Are any stores required to sell them? Absolutely not. And their customers should politely encourage them to take those products off their shelves - or those customers should take their business elsewhere.
The law-abiding residents of King Villa continue working hard to clean up their little Appling neighborhood. The law-abiding residents of the rest of the community should pitch in to help their law enforcement officers likewise clean up Columbia County.
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