The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Montour County

February 12, 2014

Montour County sheriff: We try to control drugs

— DANVILLE — Montour County law enforcement tries to control drugs while not winning the war on drugs, according to County Sheriff Ray Gerringer.

“In all reality, Pennsylvania probably lost the war on drugs 50-plus years ago,” he said. “The theory today is we know we will never stop drugs. All we try to do is control them to the best of our ability based upon the resources we have.

“We are a small  county with two small police departments and a small sheriff’s office,” he said.

“We don’t have the financial resources, and none of the police departments do, to have a full-time drug agent,” said Gerringer, who also serves as coordinator of the Northumberland-Montour Drug Task Force and is president of the Pennsylvania State Sheriffs Association.

He believes there may have been a slight rise in drug cases last year. “We’re primarily dealing with heroin, meth and prescription drugs,” he said, with arrests made from time-to-time in cocaine, marijuana and crack cocaine.

“Any kind of drug is pretty much available” in Montour County, he said. The county is easily accessible via Interstate 80 to Williamsport, Hazleton, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and New Jersey.

Typically, dealers set up supply chains such as a case where two men were dealing drugs out of a hotel room, County District Attorney Rebecca Warren said. The drug operation involved a number of counties where drugs were purchased in New Jersey and brought to Montour County with “various women addicts working for them and paying for the hotel rooms with cash,” she said.

A recent case of illegal use of prescription pills involved a man who was “doctor shopping” with two physicians, in two different counties, unaware they were both prescribing narcotics for the man, she said.   

The county saw its first known meth labs busted last year. “We had one we stopped before it started in 2012,” Gerringer said.

Last year, there were probably close to 30 meth-related clean-ups, he said. This involves any products used to make meth found along roads or on private property. “We have to call someone who is certified to handle the clean-up,” he said.

The saddest drug case he was part of involved a young man who died of an overdose and another man indicted on the federal level for supplying him with prescription drugs. “There were no winners in that case — here’s a boy who is dead and another young boy who will be in prison for a long time over drugs,” the sheriff said.

“We’re all married and have kids. We are trying to control the problem the best we can to keep Montour County a safer place to live and raise a family,” he said of himself and other law enforcement personnel.

With the task force constantly on the lookout for illegal drug activity, he said anyone thinking there is anything suspicious going on should call the drug hot line at 570-271-3062 or the nonemergency number for the 911 center.

Warren said illegal drug users are looking for a quick fix and have a “feel good now” mentality with little concern for the future.

“Rarely do they think of the consequences — harm to their bodies, medical issues, loss of brain function, premature aging, arrest, incarceration, fines and costs, inability to secure or hold a job, damage to relationships, drug-addicted babies, inability to care for or support children — which creates a vicious cycle because those children are at greater risk to become nonproductive members of society and drug abusers themselves.”

Society suffers in many ways, including the need for the court and government to intervene to protect, raise and pay for their children, free medical care support through welfare and disability payments, HUD housing, fuel assistance, transportation and food stamps, she said. “There are people who legitimately need assistance from these government programs, but these drug addicts are consuming the resources,” she said.

Posing the question how can we get these people to care about themselves, about others and about being involved in life? “Obviously, there is no simple answer,” she said.

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