Pinellas County, FL is in Taking the Lead in the Battle against Drugs in Terms of Number of Arrests
It seems that law enforcement agencies in Pinellas County are taking the threat of illegal drugs seriously. The county is in the top five in Florida in terms of arrests made for the possession of narcotics. In the years 2010 – 2015, 547 people per 100,000 residents were charged with misdemeanor or felony offenses related to drugs. This means that more than 30,000 were arrested and prosecuted for drug possession in these years (For the sake of comparison, throughout the entire country 1.2 million suspects are incarcerated for drug possession on an annual basis).
According to law enforcement officials, most arrests take place during routine pedestrians and traffic stops. Many arrest also occurred as a results of complaints issued by local residents.
Many people are highly concerned about the drug epidemic that has inflicted Florida, Pinellas County in particular, in the last couple of years. It should be noted, however, that the problem also exists in other US states such as Texas and New York. Florida has hit the headlines on account of its open public records laws which make arrest data available to everyone.
Incarceration rate in other FL counties
Other FL counties exert much effort to combat illegal drugs as well. The number of Bradford County arrests made due to drugs reached 767 per 100,000 residents in 2015. Miami-Dade County was second with 618. Monroe and Okeechobee were third and fourth while Pinellas County is considered fifth.
Many people, among which are Pinellas and Pasco Counties Public Defender – Bob Dillinger – and officials from the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, criticize Pinellas County law enforcement authorities claiming that the problem is not legal but medical. The county and state must understand that the only way to fight drug addiction is prevention and treatment and not arrests, in other words, rehabilitation and not punishment.
The justice system is slowly starting to understand that with the opening of the Pinellas County Adult Drug Court in 2001 and the Pasco County Adult Drug Court in 2007 and the adult diversion program which enables offenders to avoid imprisonment in case of minor offenses of drug possession.