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Dougherty law enforcement working with tight resources

Local law enforcement officials are feeling a pinch for needed resources -- both in manpower and in laboratory work.

At the Dougherty County Commission meeting today, Sheriff Kevin Sproul said an increasingly heavy court calendar is tying up his personnel, causing a shortage of manpower to serve warrants.

Also, plans to shut the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Moultrie will increase costs for law enforcement agencies in southern Georgia, Sproul said.

In his annual report, Sproul said he will attend a meeting in Valdosta next week in which the Lowndes County Sheriff's office is looking at opening its own crime lab. That office already processes its own narcotics testing, Sproul said.

Now, drug cases made by Albany area law enforcement are sent to Pennsylvania for analysis, which is causing problems. While local law enforcement officers are qualified to testify on small quantities of drugs, the larger quantities that constitute trafficking require expert testimony from the Pennsylvania lab technicians. That means a lot of trafficking cases are being downgraded to possession because of the difficulty and expense of flying in state witnesses.

Once the Moultrie lab is shuttered, south Georgia evidence and autopsies will be conducted in the GBI lab in Macon, which is already backed up, Sproul said.

Meanwhile, Sproul sad his office served 30,000 civil papers last year and processed 18,000 inmates in and out of the Dougherty County Jail. The current inmate population, he said, is 844.

The increasingly busy court dockets have forced Sproul to take personnel from the warrants division and use them to serve in court. As a result only 62 percent of the 10,000 warrants issued last year were served, he said. Without more personnel, that figure is unlikely to improve, he said.

Earlier in the meeting, Maj. Bill Berry gave an update on the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit, which he said seized $800,000 in drugs in 2009.

He said the ADDU is chronically short in its staffing from the Albany Police Department, and is down three officers on the city's quota of personnel for the unit. He also noted, however, that APD is down more than 20 officers in the department.