Lepanto Police make 42 arrests to begin year

LEPANTO, AR (KAIT) - The city of Lepanto has recorded a record-breaking number of drug arrests since the start of the year. According to John Davis, Chief of Police, the Lepanto Police Department arrested 42 people on drug violations. Davis said 39 have been on felony drug charges. Compared to the same time period in 2008, arrests exceed 400% .

"Misdemeanor and felony arrests is all going to be a breakdown in the quantity of the amount you have in the statute, least amount. They'll break it down in to a Class A Misdemeanor and depending on how big of the amount you have in the others or the way it's packaged, it's going to be a felony," said Davis.

Davis credited increased enforcement and public reports as to why the department has made so many arrests.

Residents of the small Poinsett County town said Friday that the problem has been in the area for decades.

"I live down there by the school and I've been living there for 15 years. I've seen the ballplayers sitting on the ball field out there taking a break, watching drug deals go down 200 foot from the school ground," said Dennis Smith.

Smith said he tried to convince city officials to crack down on drugs for several years but hasn't seen progress until recently.

"They have really cracked down here recently They've done some drug busts in the past but it was slow getting here," said Smith. "You know it's bad when they call it Little Memphis."

"I just see them pulled up here and there and all of that, pulled up to one another and I have seen it on the car wash lot. We try to run a nice clean car wash, keep it clean, people come in there and use it and all, but we don't need all that mess in there," said Jimmy South.

South has been a resident of Lepanto for approximately 30 years. He said he'd like to see the city, which has a thin budget, get financial support from the government.

"I think it's pretty bad. I think it's pretty tough in a small town. They bypass these small towns. They just don't do as much as they ought to. They just overlook it," said South. "I wish people would respect these little old towns more and do more to them and try to help clean it up and all these other little old towns, it's bad in all of them, not just Lepanto."

The police department uses its K-9 Unit to find drugs when doing regular check-ups on people on parole. Davis said they find drug paraphernalia during several investigations.

"I think the economy has a lot to do with it and we see a lot more, a lot in this area because we're getting them in from 3 different counties. We're getting them from Mississippi County, Crittenden County and Poinsett County," said Davis. "I think it's pretty basic wherever you go that the afro-American males is pretty much using crack cocaine and the white males is methamphetamines and marijuana just kind of drifts in between the two."

South and Smith said Friday the community needs to do more to stop the spread of drugs.

"A lot of people don't want to say anything about it because they don't want to get involved, but they don't like it," said Smith.

While progress has been made in the war on drugs, K-9 Officer Allen Hicks said the problem will never be fully resolved.

"You can slow it way down but it'll never be resolved. I don't care how many police officers you got. How many drug dogs you got. You will never get it completely off the streets," said Hicks.

"I don't think we have any bigger problem than any other town has got. Everybody's got their share of drug problems. It seems like when you've got a smaller population, it just seems like it seems there more because people see more action of what's taking place," said Davis.

Davis said he hopes the government can crack down on Mexican Cartels operating inside the United States. He said many of the drugs he finds come from Mexico.

"The cartel out of Mexico, they're making that circle and pushing drugs in this area, and then they're going back and making other loads," said Davis.

"It's a real concern because they'll get to where they don't want to go to school. Don't want to mind their parents. Just let their life go to pieces and nowadays you've got to have a good education to get a high paying job," said Hicks.

"It concerns you. It's something that stays on your mind constantly. It's a constant worry because if you got family on drugs, neighbors on drugs, it's a community problem," said Smith.

Authorities also said more minors are being found in possession of alcohol, which officials said is becoming more of a problem in southeast Poinsett County.

"People need to get involved. You just can't take one person or two people that wants to fight crime. It's going to take the whole community working together," said Smith.