Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County News

Com DuPree steps up to plate
Convenes last minute drug summit  (Part I) (to-Part II)

Com DuPree & Councilman Jake Hill
Com DuPree and Councilman Jake Hill show the strain of dealing with the long running drug problems in the Lake City community.

On Monday morning, October 26th, Columbia County district III Commissioner, Jody DuPree, convened a hastily called summit to discuss the ever-present and continuing drug and related problems in his district, a district that overlaps City Councilman Jake Hill's district in the Lake City area.

Invited to the meeting were City Manager, Wendell Johnson; County Manager Dale Williams;  City Police Chief Argatha Gilmore; Sheriff Mark Hunter; Lake City Police Captain Rudolph Davis; Lake City Police Lieutenant Joe Moody; City Clerk Audrey Sikes and County Deputy Clerk Sandy Markham. Columbia County District I Commissioner Ronald Williams also attended.

The State Attorney was not invited.

"I've been gettin a lot of calls and complaints about drug activity..."

Commissioner DuPree began by explaining that his district, County Commissioner Ronald Williams'  District 1, and City Councilman Jake Hills' district all overlap. Mr. DuPree said, "I've been gettin a lot of calls and complaints about drug activity, prostitution and all kinds of stuff over here. It's gettin to where it's gettin to be a pretty serious thing. I'm gettin a lot of issues about it. I've had people who work for me buyin stuff they shouldn't be buyin over there."

Mr. DuPree said that while the issues confronting the "north side" are not endemic to just that area, "it sure seems like what's on the north side of Lake City is right in your face."

DuPree said that the county has tools that it can use to help clear up the problems.

Commissioner DuPree explained that recently, in the area around the Lake Shore Hospital Authority, "a boy" he went to school with said, "Whenever we get done eatin dinner, we don't go back outside."

Councilman Hill explained that the west side is a bad area. "Anytime of the day you can ride through there and get anything you want to. Something needs to be done about it."

"They damn sure ain't bringin home the maid..."

Com Williams makes a point
Long time County Com. Ronald Williams, flanked by Police Chief Gilmore and Sheriff Hunter, makes a point.

Commissioner Ronald Williams: "It's not only a west side issue. It's a issue east-side and west-side... Most of the old folks are prisoners in their own homes... a lot of people don't want to get involved because they're scared..."

Com Williams explained that the drug dealers have scanners – that the complaint calls are heard and that folks that make the complaints have their "windows broke out."

About going after the drug dealers Com Williams said, "I don't give a damn who they are, if they break the law, arrest em."

Com Williams said about the drug dealers, "If you want to know – ask me – I'll tell you who I think's sellin it... At twelve o'clock at night when you see white folks in the black community they damn sure ain't bringin home the maid... They goin to get somethin from that house.

Com Williams concluded, "Jakes not lyin. It's bad you all."

Com DuPree said, "It's not the most important reason that somethin needs to happen. It certainly is a reason."

"This is a grave concern of ours..."

Sheriff Hunter (left), Chief Gilmore(center), and Lt. Rudolph Barnes (right) are the major players who will enforce the law.

Lake City Police Chief Gilmore spoke about the problem: "This is a grave concern of ours, as well... It is somewhat embedded into the neighborhood... It is going to take a holistic approach... We can make a street level arrest... We have started a plan of action targeting that entire area... we are going to need everybody on board... We will need community support... Hopefully they won't be afraid to speak out... We will need the state attorney... we will be working with the Sheriff's department. We will start this week."

Sheriff Mark Hunter spoke about the problem: "Since comin on board that is one area that we have definitely needed to address. The only way that we are going to make a significant change over there is through the community... We've got to get the trust of the people in that area if they do call... We can set up a tip line... We are aware of the scanners.... The drug problem is entrenched... I am up for the game... We've got to set a tone in that area over there – we're not goin to accept this behavior from what we call these jitterbugs over there... I'm glad to see this finally come together."

Chief Gilmore was on the mark when she said, "They need to hear from us that we're going to put folks in jail. They are going to jail."

Chief Gilmore added, "We have to hold those property owners responsible, as well, for some of the things that they're allowing to do."

"Talking isn't going to do the job..."

Lake City's straight talking non nonsense City Manager, Wendell Johnson, called it like it is: "Talking isn't going to do the job... You can have church meetings and community meetings all day long... It's going to have to be a visible presence... They're going to have to see some action. Every time they look around the corner they're going to see a police officer or a sheriff officer... A couple of days later they're going to see it again... I hope that will be the approach that you will take... because that's what it's going to take... You're really going to have to be proactive."

Where was the State Attorney?

Because nothing can be accomplished without a state attorney who is dedicated to prosecuting drug and drug related crimes, your reporter asked Com DuPree where he was.

Com DuPree said he was not invited.

Com DuPree explained that when the meeting started out "it was gonna be me and Jake [Councilman Jake Hill] meetin with our managers and the law enforcement people... From that it became this. But you're exactly right."

The Observer, "You could have called this morning."

Part II – The Observer on the street.