Thornton’s battle cry more than a war of words

“To those who wish to engage in illegal activity involving drugs and violence, beware, the Sheriff’s Office will use any resource within our means to come after you.”

Those were the words Thursday from Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton following the arrest of five “major players” in the drug and weapons trade this week, a multi-agency roundup that now has seen nine more local individuals added to that roster (see page A1 for details). The list of drug and weapons charges each is facing is astounding, with some of those in custody facing a dozen or more felony offenses.

All of that, we believe, affirms Thornton’s words and the stance he has taken since he first ran for sheriff in the early 2000’s. While it is no easy task to stop illegal drug activity anywhere in the world, there’s no question Thornton and his team have worked diligently to make a dent in the revolving door that is the drug trade here.

True to his word, the sheriff has used any resource he can to make that dent, this time working hand-in-hand with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the IRS’s Criminal Investigation Division, the Jacksonville Police Department, the Onslow County Sheriff’s Department, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department, the US Probation Office, the State Bureau of Investigation, the NC Dept. of Revenue and Sampson County Emergency Services. The group is part of a federal organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Over 100 federal, state and local officers have been involved in the year-long investigation which culminated with the arrests and the seizure of 11 pounds of cocaine and numerous firearms. That probe delved into what authorities have said is a “violent multi-defendant drug trafficking organization.”

We cannot thank all the officers involved in this investigation enough, both for their diligence in this case and many others, putting their own lives at risk in an effort to keep drugs and weapons out of our county.

It is, without question, a seemingly endless endeavor. Year after year, campaigns are held that put dozens upon dozens of Sampson residents behind bars, with many of them receiving active jail time for the charges leveled against them. But for every drug dealer locked away, there are at least two or three more waiting in the wings to carry on the business.

That’s why it takes tenacity in the fight against drugs. While it is difficult, if not impossible, to win the war, every battle waged and won brings us one step closer to ending the vicious cycle of drug use, abuse and activity that is responsible for so many other of the crimes we see in our communities every week.

Thornton and his team – as well as all the state and federal officers involved – understand this and the message they send out with every arrest, every campaign, every involvement with a strong task force sends a loud and clear message to the criminal element in our midst.

And Thornton’s words aren’t just empty threats as evidenced by this week’s arrests. When he warns those in the drug trade to beware, he means it.

We hope the sheriff and his team never tire of fighting this battle. By all indications, we doubt they ever do.

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