Chatham County officials looking to crack down on drug houses

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Savannah and Chatham County are still looking to state leaders for help in dealing with blight and derelict properties around the community.

They brought up that exact issue Thursday at the Capitol in Atlanta during Savannah-Chatham Day. But chronic blight isn't the only battle our area faces with irresponsible property owners.

Blight can bring down the look of a neighborhood, and decrease property value. But so can homes that are consistently sold or rented to drug dealers.

During the latest Chatham County Commission meeting, county leaders heard from the director of the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team that several recent busts were at locations all too familiar with their agents.

"I noticed in your report that there are several residences that come up, you've been there three or four times," said District 8 Chatham County Commissioner Rev. Chester Ellis.

Commissioner Ellis pointed out a couple of houses in Carver Village were seized and torn down several years ago because of repeat drug activity. Even though he considers that a last resort, Ellis believes that option should stay on the table especially when it comes to property owners who look the other way allowing the drug-dealing cycle to continue.

"It's not to say folks don't know what they're doing, they do know what they're doing. And they perpetuate this thing going on," said Commissioner Ellis.

So too do the Counter Narcotics agents who sometimes repeatedly bust drug operations at the same house over a months-long time period.

"You know, we go and we make these arrests, we put in time and effort...and ultimately put our lives at risk. And a lot of times too not only are we there, but we're there because a member of the immediate community has called to say, look, there are drug sales. I've got kids here, I'm afraid to let them out here, etc," said Sgt. Gene Harley, with CNT.

Sgt. Harley says there is a fairly large number of houses in Savannah and Chatham County that see multiple drug busts, with different people being arrested each time.

He says the county can seize the home and has recently had to make that threat because of persistent drug activity.

There is a lot of red tape to go through to seize a home, including a lot of time in the courtroom according to Commissioner Ellis. But he does want to make sure that option stays on the table.

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