By Mary Elizabeth Dial, Staff Correspondent
Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin, Etowah County District Attorney Jody Willoughby, Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton and various law enforcement officials met on Feb. 1 at the Office of the Sheriff to announce what they called a “proactive law enforcement initiative” for the month of February. The initiative aims to mobilize the assets available to law enforcement in Etowah County and get criminals off the streets.
Guyton cited existing programs, such as the drug enforcement unit and neighborhood watch groups, that law enforcement will make use of as part of the new inititative. He stressed the importance of these programs and the power they give citizens to assist law enforcement.
“All over the county, plus in the city of Gadsden, we have a lot of issues,” Guyton said, but he remained hopeful that the new initiative will empower citizens to get involved and share their concerns with law enforcement. “There’s a [drug enforcement] number you can call… it goes straight to [the Gadsden] police department… you can give the address and that’s all you’ve got to give. You don’t have to give your name.”
Entrekin maintained a strong stance, explaining that the initiative includes a “zero tolerance” policy for offenders.
“We’re going to enforce all laws. Federal, state, local laws. [If] you break the law in this county, these officers are going to put your butt in jail.”
Entrekin and Guyton both acknowledged the current national political climate regarding law enforcement, but insisted that the Etowah County initiative is largely apolitical. When asked about issues of illegal immigration and how local law enforcement will approach it, Entrekin and Guyton explained that the purpose of the initiative is not to root out non-citizen residents but to ensure the safety of law-abiding members of the Etowah County community.
“We enforce immigration laws when they come to jail,” Entrekin clarified. We don’t go out on the street… and pick you up because of the color of your skin or your nationality. If you break a law, we bring you to this jail and you’re [subject to] immigration law.”
“This is an opportunity for the community to see that their voice is being heard,” Willoughby added. “I think it’s going to be wonderful for this county as a whole.”
Entrekin, Willoughby, Guyton and law enforcement officials will reconvene in a second news conference at the end of February to share the results of the proactive law enforcement initiative and elaborate on the next steps for Etowah County. As the leaders of the initiative, they are all optimistic about what it will accomplish in the 28 days between its commencement and its completion.
“I hope this room is full of drugs and guns and pictures of folks that are in jail,” Entrekin said.
Guyton reminded citizens to remain involved throughout the month, primarily by making use of the Drug Enforcement Unit’s anonymous tip line. Witnesses to suspicious, potentially drug-related behavior are encouraged to call 256-546-3131.