Law enforcement officials from several counties gathered at Kinston Town Hall Monday to announce a new initiative to combat violent and drug crime in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The initiative is known as Take Back North Carolina.
Robert Higdon Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, introduced the initiative, saying that crime rates and drug overdoses in Eastern North Carolina have grown out of control.
The Take Back North Carolina initiative would see prosecutors take a more aggressive stance toward handling drug trafficking cases.
To that effect, Higdon said that the entire staff of his office - at least 51 people - has been dedicated to fighting drug trafficking and violent crime in some way.
"We are here today, in a series of announcements that we will make all over the state, to tell you that we are taking North Carolina back from the drug dealers and violent criminals," he said. "We are taking North Carolina back from the doctors and pharmacists who overprescribe and illegally distribute prescription drugs, and we are prepared to work at this problem until every community, every neighborhood, every street, every home is safe and secure and free from violent crime and drugs."
Higdon said that efforts are already underway, including the assignment of special prosecutors to problem areas and the strengthening of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces.
In addition, Higdon announced the adoption of stricter guidelines on how to charge violent crime and drug trafficking offenders. These included prosecutors always charging the most serious, readily provable offense for drug dealing and violent crimes, and always tacking on whatever firearms charges are available.
"There is no longer any kind of charge bargaining in this district," Higdon said.
Higdon said that drug offenders with multiple prior felony charges will be subject to mandatory minimum sentences. Crimes against law enforcement officers will be given priority attention -- a directive which Higdon said came from President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Higdon said that, offenders can "get out from underneath" these penalties if they agree to cooperate with law enforcement and help them apprehend and charge people higher up the drug-trafficking chain. For those who profit from the sale of drugs and the use of violence, expect to have anything connected to drug money seized.
"Each of our drug indictments will contain an asset forfeiture notice, and we will aggressively pursue anything of value that facilitates the drug trafficking process or constitutes the profits of such crimes," he said. "If your crime generates cash, we will seize it, if your fancy car was bought with drug money, we will take it. If your house or business facilitated a drug crime we will move to have it forfeited."