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Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith tackles Methamphetamine problem with new approach – rehabilitation opportunities

March 16, 2017

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Fla. – Methamphetamine continues to be a major problem in Franklin County. The county’s new top cop has made it his priority to bust the people behind the epidemic, but he is taking a different approach to get the drugs off the streets.

“When I was campaigning, everywhere I went people were telling me there was a problem with Meth in the communities across the county. I knew there was a problem, but I really didn’t know it was big or that that many people were concerned about it but everywhere I went people were talking about it,” Sheriff A.J. Smith said.

Smith promised residents during his election campaign he’d rid the county of the drug. So far this year, sheriff’s deputies have made 71 drug-related arrests.

The latest was Tuesday when investigators served a search warrant at Jeffery Nowling’s Eastpoint home. They charged Nowling with two counts of sale of a controlled substance, two counts of possession of controlled substance with intent to sale or deliver and several misdemeanor charges.

“When you have heavy meth use in neighborhoods, a lot of people are roaming all night long. They’re stealing. They’re doing other crimes. Some of that has been reduced. That’s attributed to the deputies that are working these neighborhoods really hard,” Smith said.

While Smith is seeing improvements, he said more arrests isn’t necessarily the full solution.

“As these people decide that’s not a life I want to live, then I’m here to help,” he said.

Smith wants to tackle the problem at its root by providing rehabilitation opportunities to inmates.

Christopher Wells, 23, is the first inmate to step forward and request admittance into a rehab program. He has been addicted to methamphetamine and in and out of the system since he was eleven years old.

Wells hopes the nine month jail sentence he finished this week is his last but fears the prevalence of meth in the county threatens any chance he has of recovery.

“I hit it one time, and I’ve been stuck to it,” Well said. “This go around right here kind of stuck to me. Now I just want out. I don’t want to be in trouble anymore. I want to do right.”

“As the sheriff, I’m going to do my part to make it better,” Smith added.

The drug and rehabilitation program called Teen Challenge is located in Pensacola. One of the major goals is helping adults that grew-up in families and communities where substance abuse created a spiral of addiction.