To the People of Putnam County,
It has long been my personal observation that over 90 percent of the crime in our county and state is directly associated in some way with illicit drugs. The so-called “War on Drugs” in this country has been a dismal failure, and the fact of the matter is illicit drug dealing is the most profitable business in America.
I, along with my deputies, have vigorously enforced the drug laws in this county throughout my tenure in office, but no matter how hard we work the problem persists. I believe most of you simply aren’t aware that when it comes to drug offenders, they sometimes only serve one to two months per year of a prison sentence before they are paroled and released. Doing two or three years on a 20-year sentence is just a cost of doing business for them. After all, they simply go away to a clean, air-conditioned facility where they are fed three meals a day and have all of their medical needs taken care of during their relatively brief visit.
The most effective and valuable tool we in the Georgia law enforcement community have in our arsenal that really does harm to the illicit drug dealers and other criminals who reap the huge, tax-free profits of their criminal enterprises has been our seizure and forfeiture laws. These laws have enabled us, after judicial processes are completed, to take the cars, cash, and property of criminals. This, in the end, seems to be the only thing that really hurts them.
In addition to the actual decrease in their wealth, it further demoralizes them. Nothing pleases me more than to have my deputies patrol our community in a well-known dope dealer’s new Tahoe that I painted black and white and adorned with the seal of my office and the letters “PUTNAM SHERIFF” In contrast, nothing bothers the dope dealer more than to hear the people in his neighborhood talk about how the Sheriff’s Office is driving his expensive car.
These seizures have also saved you a phenomenal amount of tax money. All of the following were acquired at no cost to the taxpayers and were totally paid for with money taken from criminals through judicial pocess:
- The Lake Oconee Precinct office building including its furnishings, computers, radios, etc.
- All of the furnishings, computers, radios, and equipment in the Lake Sinclair Precinct building.
- All three of our patrol boats.
- The Lake Oconee marine patrol boathouse, including all of its equipment.
- Our portion of the Lake Sinclair marine patrol boathouse that we share with DNR.
- All of the pistols, shotguns, rifles, and special weapons that are assigned to deputies.
- Our K-9s (dogs), their equipment, and the cost of training the dogs and the cost of training the deputies who use them.
- Our mobile command center and the truck that pulls it.
- My vehicle, my Chief Deputy’s vehicle, all of the vehicles assigned to my detectives and command staff, and the bus used for the work detail on the roads (40% of all the units in our current fleet of motor vehicles were seized or paid for with seizure funds).
- The x-ray machine, metal detector, alarm systems, and virtually all of the security equipment in the Putnam County Courthouse.
- Much of the radio equipment used by deputies.
- Expensive covert surveillance equipment.
- Crime scene investigation equipment and materials.
- Money used to make undercover purchases of drugs and pay informants.
The aforementioned items are just a partial list of the things we have acquired with seized assets. I could write page after page describing numerous other things we have done with the property and money obtained as a result of our existing seizure and forfeiture laws.
Without the ability to use these funds at my discretion, the investigation and successful prosecution of Malachi York and the Nuwaubians would have been virtually impossible.
Last year our Legislature passed criminal justice reform making a plethora of felony crimes into misdemeanors, shifting the cost of incarcerating and supervising these criminals from the state government back to the landowning county taxpayers. As incredible as it might seem, this year there is an effort being brought forth in your General Assembly that will make it significantly much more difficult for us to seize and condemn the money and assets of criminals.
It comes forth in the 92 pages of House Bill 1. I can categorically say that the provisions of this bill will only benefit criminals and the lawyers who represent them. Our existing seizure laws have been repeatedly upheld by the appellate courts, and there is no problem with the laws we have in place. This is nothing but legislation to help the criminal element and those who profit from their crimes. If it is passed, it will literally demoralize the law enforcement community to a point where we will see little public benefit in enforcing the law when it comes to drug dealers and other criminal entrepreneurs. Who knows, maybe that was the intent in the first place.
Many of our Representatives and Senators pay little attention to those of us who are really on the streets enforcing our laws and trying to protect the public. We are seldom called on for input or advice when it comes to enacting or changing laws that have real effects on your safety and our tax money. This is the same scenario with House Bill 1. I don’t know of a single soul in the law enforcement community of this state, certainly not the Sheriffs, who was consulted with about this dramatic proposed change in our law.
While the Legislature may not pay attention to us in law enforcement, they pay a lot of attention to you, and we need your help. I need you to write, email, call, or contact your House Representative and your Senator in some manner and tell them you want them to vote NO on HOUSE BILL 1.
Contact information for your Legislators is as follows:
Rep. Mickey Channell (District 120)
133 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Rep. Rusty Kidd
507 Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg.
Atlanta, GA 30334
Senator Bert Jones
327-A Coverdell Office
Atlanta, GA 30334
We in law enforcement are only a component of the criminal justice system. You, when you serve on jury duty, when you vote, and when you express your opinion about laws your elected representatives enact, are an equally important and vital part of the system too.
I thank you for your continued support.
Howard R. Sills, Sheriff
President, Georgia Sheriffs’ Association