by Victor Lopez
HOWARD COUNTY--Crime in Big spring isn't just the nickle and dime stuff anymore.
There's a new breed of criminal, and law enforcement says it calls for a new way to fight them.
"We're facing a different kind of criminal out there and it's all driven by the drugs on the street," Howard County Judge Mark Barr, said.
In a press conference on Wednesday morning, city and county officials sat side by side. Each acknowledging the problem and vowing continued efforts to solve it.
"For the first time that I can ever recall, the sheriff's department and the police department are working in concert," Big Spring Mayor Russ McEwen, said. "There is a real desire on their part to make sure that the citizens of Big Spring are going to be protected properly."
Since it was created in 2007, the Big Spring Drug Task Force has already made almost 400 drug related arrests. But until recently, they had no place to put the offenders. According to Judge Barr, "Now, things have changed. We have a new jail and if you're doing unlawful activities, you're going to face the consequences."
Many drug dealers operate in both the city and the county, so the police and sheriff's departments have an agreement that lets them work together in each other's jurisdiction.
"If you see one, you see another around with them," Police Chief Lonnie Smith explained. "A lot of people are getting confused. They don't really know if it's the police department coming or if it's the sheriff's office coming. Well, it doesn't really matter. We're working together."
Sheriff Stan Parker says, the key to success is a good working relationship between department leaders, "Chief and I have worked together for over 20 years. I think that's what's important about all this, that we do combine these efforts and do combine the information and share these investigative experiences and plus our patrols are working together."
Gang activity in Big Spring and Howard County is not as big as it once was, but it still exists.
They're also a crossroads for drug traffic in all directions with Highway 87 and I-20.
Natives of Howard County, the Mayor, Police Chief, Sheriff and County Judge are all concerned about the future of their home.
"We're coming together to say, what are our problems," McEwen said.
Chief Smith adds, "Refusing to admit you have a problem, you'll never get it accomplished. We're saying we do have and we're addressing it."