WAYNE COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Wayne County Sheriff Jody Ashley said federal funding is needed to keep drugs out of the county.
"You've got to work drug enforcement to keep this stuff out and protect these people here in Wayne County," Ashley said. "That's what I was elected for to do, is to come in and protect them and get rid of the drugs. That's what I'm doing right now."
Ashley said drug traffickers are using highways, like US 84, 63 and 45, to transport large quantities of drugs. He said the cartel is using the roadways, instead of busy interstates like I-59, because they know they are not being monitored regularly.
"(Highway) 84, wide open and going into Alabama from here to Atlanta. Yeah, it's wide open and they know this," Ashley said.
Sheriff Ashley said he has a good track record after taking office with big drug busts. The largest cocaine bust in Mississippi happened in March 2016, where over $3.5 million worth of cocaine was intercepted during a safety checkpoint in Wayne County.
"If you look at my record, it stands for itself, what we've done so far," Ashley said. "We've done it with limited resources and equipment. Now, we got a chance that we can get this, if we can be funded."
Ashley said he needs $2 million in federal funding through a Homeland Security grant. Ashley said his current budget barely covers the jail, deputy payroll and other needs for the department.
Ashley said the department's two narcotics officers are busy with controlling "street sales" across the county. Ashley said he needs an interdiction unit to monitor those highways 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The unit would include new vehicles, a K-9 and personnel.
Ashley said dangerous drugs lead to deaths. Before he took office, Ashley said there were 27 drug-related murders in Wayne County in one year.
"These drugs destroy people's lives," Ashley said. "I've talked to family members after family members, we need to get rid of them."
WDAM 7 News reached out to Sen. Thad Cochran on the request for federal funds. We received this statement from his office:
A spokesperson with Cochran's office said there is federal funds available for law enforcement agencies in 2017.