There are major changes coming for the Metro Narcotics Task Force, which was established more than 30 years ago.
In addition to pursuing drug cases, the multi-agency force will also shift focus to work gang cases in Columbus, Phenix City, Russell County, and Harris County, multiple sources tell News 3.
The Metro Narcotics Task Force will now be called the Metro Narcotics and Gang Task Force. The change comes as law enforcement officials say there is a connection to drug and gang activity in the Chattahoochee Valley.
The shift in focus was announced Wednesday afternoon during a news conference in the Columbus Public Safety Building.
“If you are a convicted felon, with a firearm, in Columbus, Georgia, dealing drugs and associated with gang activity, you are going to prison,” Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren said.
The agency is made up of officers from the Columbus Police Department, Phenix City Police Department, Russell County Sheriff’s Office and Harris County Sheriff’s Office. The Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office pulled out of the organization last year.
The task force will also work with local prosecutors to get the cases through the judicial system, sources tell News 3. They will also steer cases to the federal court system, which moves cases to trial quicker with harsher sentences upon conviction.
“I hope the word gets out to any felon who chooses to possess a firearm that when caught, that case will come into the federal system where they will do hard time in the federal prison system,” said Charles Peeler, U.S. Attorney, Middle District of Georgia.
The Metro Narcotics Task Force has been solely focused on drug prosecution since its formation in 1989.
It will now be the Metro Narcotics and Gang Task Force. And gang arrests and prosecutions will be a big part of what they do.
The task force consists of the Columbus Police Department, the Phenix City Police Department and the Harris and Russell county sheriff’s offices.
Russell County sheriff spent six years as an agent on the task force. Back in the mid-90s, gangs were not the local issue they are today.
“When you look at this business of looking into narcotics today, it goes hand-in-hand with what these gangs are asking these young people to do to fuel and provide money for the gang to survive,” Taylor said. “So, it makes all the sense in the world to me to expand the scope of the Metro Task Force.”