Carter County Sheriff Chris Bryant, together with the usual 54 employees, woke up Labor Day for business as usual.
A jailhouse of at least 50 inmates beyond the capacity of 186 awaited the shorthanded staff.
“In this business, you can’t have a reduced staff on Labor Day. We are the only branch of county government that works 24-7, 365 days a year,” Bryant said.
Monday’s holiday brought lieutenants working calls, deputies manning the fort and foresight into how local crime might develop in the coming months.
Bryant described the city of Ardmore as a hub, being the halfway point between Dallas and Oklahoma City. That translates into drug traffickers often passing through southern Oklahoma, which the Sheriff says is the root of many crimes.
“Your drug problem is your nucleus,” Bryant said. “And what happens is that you have your drug problem, then you have burglaries, then you have domestic (disturbances) and then you have everything else falling in that stems off of that.”
While gang activity and possession of narcotics has receded in recent years, according to the sheriff and Ardmore Police Department, Bryant asserted that drug use never truly disappears from anywhere.
But the Sheriff’s office and entities that span from Lone Grove, Healdton and beyond are cooperating to pinpoint hotspots for activities related to narcotics in hopes of inhibiting them.
Prior to his tenure as county sheriff, Bryant said each separate agency was “fending for itself” as far as law enforcement tactics go. He believes in a unified approach in combating the common crime in order to ensure the most appropriate response in any area of Carter County.
Still, efforts to eradicate drug possession can prove difficult, as drug ring leaders often deploy low-level workers, then reap the benefits of their labor.
“You have a deal where you’ll never stop the flow of drugs — anywhere,” Bryant said. “Because there’s too much money in it. It just won’t happen.”
State Questions 780 and 781, which went into effect July 1, mandates that possession of narcotics under 20 grams be charged as a misdemeanor instead of a felony. While the Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform designed the legislation to help reduce jail populations in an attempt to address addiction and mental health issues, Bryant said it hasn’t helped at all.
Carter County Sheriff’s Office has been inundated with inmates who have been arrested for possession of narcotics and cannot post bail, who then have to sit in jail, be fed three meals a day and take three showers a week. Since the SQs went into effect, Bryant said jail spending has spiked by 12 percent.
Costs for the Sheriff’s Office have not declined, and Bryant anticipates drug users who hover just below the threshold before felony classification will take advantage.
“I think things are going to get worse because people know about the higher limits,” he said. “As the Sheriff’s Office, we’re just going to take this ball and run with it.”