FITZGERALD -- Members of the South Central Georgia Drug Task Force are encouraging residents to call a tip hot line to report any suspicious activity relating to the use, sale or manufacture of illegal drugs.

Rex Johnson, SCGDTF commander, said citizens can speak to a drug investigator or leave a recorded message by calling 424-0000.

Agents are hoping the hot line will encourage people who may have fear or be otherwise apprehensive about calling authorities with information.

"Citizens can either identify themselves or speak anonymously with one of our trained staff or law enforcement officials," said Johnson. "We depend on information from the community. It is a critical key to our investigative efforts."

The task force was initiated in July and through October, agents in Ben Hill, Irwin, Turner and Wilcox counties have investigated 103 drug cases and made 38 arrests.

Ocilla Police Chief Bill Hancock, who serves as chairman of the task force's Operations Control Group, said the "regional approach" to drug investigations increases manpower and resources and improves intelligence and cooperation between agencies.

"Jurisdictional boundaries are eliminated," said Billy Hancock, Ocilla Police Chief.

The task force concentrates its efforts on undercover investigation, surveillance, informant information and asset seizure and forfeiture against drug offenders. Members of the task force can exchange information quicker than before and combine their manpower and equipment to investigate known drug dealers and locate and prosecute previously unknown dealers and users.

The task force was developed with a $270,552 grant from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

In addition to Johnson and Hancock, Irwin County Sheriff Donnie Youghn, Ben Hill County Sheriff Thurman Ellis, Turner County Sheriff Randy Kendrick, Wilcox County Sheriff Stacy Bloodsworth, Fitzgerald Chief Bill Smallwood, Ashburn Police Chief Ben Sumner and Abbeville Police Chief Corey Parker formed the task force.

To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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