New regional drug-fighting hub opens in Carrollton

Date: Tue, Mar 10th, 2009 9:49:45 pm

From Times-Georgian

Carroll County Sheriff Terry Langley welcomes guests to the grand opening of the headquarters for the new West Metro Regional Drug Enforcement Office in Carrollton on Wednesday. Michelle Lepianka/Times-Georgian.
Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2008 1:58 AM EDT

Renovation on the headquarters for the new West Metro Regional Drug Enforcement Office in Carrollton is complete after only eight months of work, and local officials gathered Wednesday to mark the occasion.

The regional hub will serve as a multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement agency controlled by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation - covering 22 counties in western Georgia. The office will house a team of undercover agents who will work drug cases statewide, as well as a collection of GBI agents and local officers who will cover drug cases in the 22 counties. The collaboration of GBI agents and trained local officers will make the Carrollton office the first GBI office of its kind.

The Enforcement Office replaced the West Georgia Drug Task Force in July of this year, but with more agents and equipment came the need for a larger office space. Former Task Force Commander Chris Hosey, who has since moved up to another job within the GBI, and Chris Tolbert, special agent in charge of the Enforcement Office, approached Carroll County Sheriff Terry Langley about the possibility of starting a major GBI pilot project in Carroll County. Langley took the idea to Carrollton Police Chief Joel Richards and the plan was presented to both city and county governments. City and county governments chipped in $200,000 each for the project, and Langley and Richards each donated $50,000 from seized drug funds. Donations from other area law enforcement agencies, including the Villa Rica Police Department and the Heard and Meriweather County sheriff's offices, followed shortly thereafter.

Langley said the purchase and renovation of the building cost around $800,000. He estimated that the use of inmate labor for the majority of the renovations shaved about $100,000 off the cost.

GBI Director Vernon Keenan said part of the reason Carrollton was chosen for the project was the successful history of the Task Force. While stressing the importance of law enforcement agencies cooperating with one another, Keenan praised the transformation of the former Martin and Hightower Funeral Home that will serve as the Enforcement Office's headquarters. "This facility has character, and I'm absolutely astounded at the work that's gone into it," he said.

Tolbert said drug enforcement agents will be setting up offices in the building over the next several weeks. Between 30 and 40 agents will be housed in Carrollton. Tolbert added that the project could not have taken shape so quickly had it not been for the cooperation between the GBI and local law enforcement and government groups.
"It's outstanding," he said. "I have never seen cooperation like this before."