Monroe County deputies A.J. Johnson, left, and Laron Griffin stand in front of one of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office’s brand new Ford Explorer Interceptors. Revamping its fleet was one of the department’s highlights for the past year.

From seizing narcotics before they were distributed, multiple arrests and updating its fleet of vehicles, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office rounded off 2020 with its success stories.

“We were able to keep somewhere between seven to eight pounds of crystal meth off the streets. We had one five pound seizure early on and 2.2 pounds lately that we kept off the streets. That’s not counting other arrests through traffic violations and things like that,” said Monroe County Sheriff Kevin Crook. “Being back in the North Mississippi Narcotics Unit makes a big difference. These cases are all related. The dope is coming from the same places. Having that network and intel helps.

“Knowing we were able to seize that much before it even hit is something we want to do more of.”

In the MCSO and North MS Narcotics Unit’s case of the 2.2 pound crystal meth seizure in December, Michael Montez Wright, Sr., 37, recently turned himself in to authorities after being charged with aggravated trafficking. Monroe County Justice Court Judge Sarah Stevens revoked his bond.

Waverly Antonio Wright, 34, faced the same charge in the case, and his bond was set by Stevens at $750,000.

Arrests and bookings

For 2020, the Monroe County Detention Center had 1,680 book-ins attributed to arrests made by the MCSO, local police departments and the Mississippi Highway Patrol. Peak months were July and August with 197 and 179, respectively.

The number of book-ins for April, May and December were fewer due to spikes in COVID-19 cases.

“We’re not restricted. When they go out there and find drugs on traffic stops, they get out there and prevent and make arrests and follow through,” Crook said.

Throughout the year, there were 616 felony arrests booked into the county detention center, with the MCSO making approximately 350 to 400 of them. The department had approximately 220 indictments, with some stemming to 2019 cases presented to the grand jury last year.

New vehicles

and looking ahead

On top of new trucks for shift supervisors, the MCSO’s fire investigator and D.A.R.E. officers, the MCSO recently rolled out 11 new Ford Explorer Interceptors for road deputies.

“We didn’t go outside of our budget. We went outside the box. We took the next three years’ budgets to finance vehicles. Still we pay, over a three-year period, $100,000 per year. We spent our budget amount paying off vehicles to get them all now instead of three this year, three next year and four the next year,” Crook said.

He described the vehicles as rolling offices for law enforcement.

“The hope might be in three years that we can sell some of those to other agencies. You can call it fleet management that we’re getting new cars and passing them along before they get in bad shape. Before, we were getting them after someone else had gotten the good out of them,” Crook said.

He sees the MCSO’s biggest accomplishment for the previous year as dealing with determination through low times.

“Overall, with the loss of Dylan [Pickle] and Reggie [Minich] and the battle with COVID, it’s perseverance. The department as a whole has kept moving forward with change and putting ourselves in the best position we could, even with all that going on around us,” he said. “It shows dedication. The culture we’re trying to create here that has been created in this past year is about working hard, training hard and putting ourselves last and others first. I think the biggest thing now is to expect the most out of each other.”

He said everyone recognizes the team effort required for the department.

“Through the loss of Dylan and Reggie and recovery of Zack [Wilbanks], it definitely played a part in the attitude toward one another. You appreciate the people you work with,” Crook said.

For 2021, he anticipates being able to put more information regarding arrests out to the public.

“People should expect faster response times, see higher profile drug arrests and more people serving time. We’re housing more local people, which helps us get them into rehabs,” Crook said.

Reflecting on 2020, he continues to share his appreciation for community support such as providing for an armored vehicle, body armor, a K9, reflective vests, food, cards, letters and prayers.

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