While bigger cities try to tackle higher crimes rates and improve community relations, a local sheriff has an idea that’s working for his county.
Moniteau County Sheriff Tony Wheatley took office in January. Six months into his tenure, Wheatley says crime has taken a nosedive and community involvement sky rocketed.
“We have zero tolerance for drugs in Moniteau County and we mean it,” Wheatley said.
During his first six months in office, Wheatley created a new policy of safety checkpoints.
“We map out in our policy, certain locations and intersections that are high crime, high traffic, we’ve had burglaries in the past or had a high report of drug arrests in the past or it’s a safety concern of speeding and things like that,” he said.
At the checkpoints, deputies look for any type of violation, but sometimes make big arrests.
“We have a couple officers and we just check for driver licenses, proof of insurance, safety inspection, get everybody slowed down, make sure they’re wearing their seat belts,” Wheatley said.
Safety checkpoints often happen in the middle of the day in Moniteau County.
“It lets the community know you’re out there and that you are checking people and the bad guys don’t know where we’re going to be at,” Wheatley said.
Wheatley’s background is in drug investigation, and he said that’s a role he will continue as sheriff.
“We arrest on drug offenses and there’s no way around it,” Whealtey said. “We make them face their day in court. People like that and they expect that out of us now.”
When asked what the biggest drug problem was in Moniteau County, Wheatley was quick to respond.
“Methamphetamine, by a long shot,” He said. “I’d say eight out of 10 people we arrest is for methamphetamine.”
Wheatley said they’ve determined troubled spots in the community where there have been a lot of reports of drug activity.
They saturate the area, start investigations and try to eliminate the problems.
“Latham and Clarksburg – We’ve worked on those two towns pretty hard and it’s shown a big difference,” he said. “The community has come to us and thanked us for cleaning up the towns and that’s what we are going to continue to do throughout the whole county.”
Wheatley and the sheriff’s office show no mercy when it comes to drugs.
“We’ve recovered a large quantity of meth here recently and we know that it’s here and we’ll hunt it and we’ll find it,” he said. “We know it’s here and we’ll work to try to get it and i think we will. We’re getting close on some of them.”
Because of their persistence to get drugs out of the county, crime has gone down.
“Our crime rate so far this year has been cut in half as of what it was the previous year,” Wheatley noted. “Our citizen reports of giving us information and reporting suspicious activity is up 92% from the previous year and our drug arrests are up 85% from the previous year so far. I think the numbers speak for themselves. The more drug arrests we make, the lower the rest of the crime rate is.”
He said drug use, thefts, burglaries and assaults, go hand in hand.
“They’re all tied together,” Wheatley said. “It’s the same people. They’re breaking into houses to support their drug habit. They’re stealing people’s machinery, tractors and everything to support their drug habit.”
Wheatley had some advice for the drug users and dealers in Moniteau County.
“You need to heed the warnings, you need to try to get some help, because you need to get help somewhere else before we try to get help for you and we’ll be coming for you,” he said.
Wheatley also said they’re not afraid to patrol back roads.
He said they’ve found success surprising suspects.
By Meghan Lane | KRCG