LCSO receives $1.7 million in effort to increase drug patrols and reduce drug deaths – News-Press
More money will soon mean the county will be able to double its patrol units and curb the increase of deaths by overdose linked to narcotics locally.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno announced Tuesday that the sheriff’s office will receive an economic boost to help finance more drug patrols.
“As the population of Lee County continues to grow, so does the need for narcotics enforcement,” Marceno said. “Last year, deaths by overdose were up at an alarming rate. This epidemic of death is unacceptable, and I will not tolerate it.”
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The county commission approved an annual budget increase $1.7 million for Marceno and a $463,000 boost for the State Attorney’s Office, 20th Judicial Circuit.
The county will double its narcotics task force to 40 members from its previous headcount of 20.
That increase will include four new teams, each made up of four deputies and a sergeant.
The county will make the increases effective immediately, granting $1 million to Marceno and $71,000 for State Attorney Amira Fox.
Marceno pointed to a growth in the county population directly linked to a surge in narcotics.
“These additional dedicated teams will target and arrest illegal drug operations like never before,” Marceno said. “This expansion will be life-changing for the residents of my county.”
Last year, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office’s narcotics unit seized over 34 kilos in illegal drugs — roughly 75 lbs — and 91 firearms, Marceno said.
“Get ready for a tsunami force like this county’s never seen,” Marceno said.
He added that in one particular case they seized more than $2.2 million in illegal drug profits.
“Our battle against drug dealers, as it stands today, has been very successful,” Marceno said. “But expanding our narcotics unit will lead to even greater success.”
Marceno said Lehigh Acres specifically will see its drug patrol increase by two or three units, citing the vast area.
“If we have certain people that think they can operate and fly under the radar, the party’s over,” Marceno said.
Fox added that the funds approved by the county commission will support staffing efforts at the Lee County Narcotics and Vice Unit. The new agency will support the existing Narcotics Enforcement Task Force, created in 2019.
“I want the citizens of Lee County, and the entire 20th Judicial Circuit, to know that the sale of illegal narcotics in our community will not be tolerated and will be met with prosecution,” Fox said in a press release.
The News-Press staff writer Bill Smith contributed to this report.
Tomas Rodriguez is a Breaking/Live News Reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. You can reach Tomas at TRodriguez@gannett.com or 772-333-5501. Follow him on Twitter @TomasFRoBeltran.