Powerful Ally

Published 9:56 am Monday, March 19, 2018

WINDSOR – Law enforcement officials across the Roanoke-Chowan area now boast of a powerful ally as they continue their efforts to bring to justice against those involved in serious crimes.

This past Monday, United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. met locally with Bertie County Sheriff John Holley, Hertford County Sheriff Dexter Hayes, Northampton County Sheriff Jack Smith, Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh, District Attorney Valerie Asbell, and members of the Down East Drug Task Force to share his vision for moving forward and working with R-C area agencies to combat the war on violent crime, drugs, gang crimes, and firearms offenses.

Sheriff Holley hosted the meeting at the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office.

During the meeting, Higdon, now the top-ranking official in the Eastern District of North Carolina, told the group about his career as an Assistant US Attorney in many parts of the state. He spent nearly 24 years as a federal prosecutor. Higdon was sworn in on Sept. 28, 2017 and it is now his job now to oversee about 50 federal prosecutors who will handle some of the most pressing issues in the state, including violent crime, the opioid crisis, white collar crime, and illegal immigration.

At the meeting, Higdon brought with him several of his colleagues: Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Bradsher, Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Gray, and Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Meyers. Also attending the meeting was Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent Greg Coates from the FBI’s Greenville office.

Higdon’s vision was squarely in line with the vision of Asbell and the three Sheriffs and Chief Fitzhugh as to how the local law enforcement officials should move forward with the rise of violent crime associated with people selling drugs and using firearms, which are resulting in murders, home invasions, and senseless acts of violence.

Asbell stated she was very appreciative of the fact that the US Attorney came to the Roanoke-Chowan area to personally meet with the local officials.

“I have known US Attorney Bobby Higdon for the past 15 years and have known and worked with Assistant US Attorney Frank Bradsher for the past 25 years and am very proud to work alongside this team to make our community a safer place to live,” Asbell said. “Bobby’s commitment to our counties is obvious from he fact that he initiated the meeting to come to our community to make his presence known. All of his team members are dedicated professionals and I look forward to working with them again under his leadership.

“It has been my priority and mission for the past 18 years as the elected District Attorney to fight violent crime and I have made prosecuting those crimes a top priority for my office and District,” Asbell continued, whose office covers Bertie, Halifax, Hertford and Northampton counties. “Because violent offenders and drug dealers do not care about crossing county lines, the creation of the Down East Drug Task Force was a very important step towards our goal of reducing violent crime. The dedication of the Task Force members and the Sheriffs and Chief Fitzhugh towards this goal is brave and commendable.”

When discussing with Higdon about the increase of local individuals involved in supplying illegal drugs, Asbell remarked, “I strongly believe that my office and law enforcement have to continue to focus our efforts on incarcerating those people who are selling crack cocaine and opiates to the citizens in our community by asking for lengthy active sentences for these drug dealers.”

The local District Attorney noted her ongoing efforts to find professional help for locals charged with purchasing and using illegal narcotics.

“It has and will continue to be a priority of my office to try to help those offenders who are charged with narcotics violations who can be shown to be buyers and users of narcotics,” Asbell said. “For these particular defendants with proven drug addictions who do not have lengthy criminal records for selling drugs, my office will ask for probationary sentences which will focus on drug treatment and deferral programs for those defendants who are the victims of these drug dealers who are making monetary profits off of the addictions of others.

“With the rise of the opiate crisis, it is even more imperative that we focus on the drug dealers because opiates are killing our citizens,” Asbell stressed. There is a direct correlation between selling drugs, selling firearms, gang affiliations and the rise of violent crime in our community and across the state. If we don’t get these violent drug dealers and gang members who sell drugs and firearms out of our community, we are going to lose our community.”

Sheriff Holley expressed his delight in hosting Monday’s meeting and the chance to meet and discuss strategy with Higdon.

“I am looking forward to a wonderful working relationship with US Attorney Bobby Higdon,” Holley stated. “My office has and will continue to fight this war against drugs and violent crime with all of my resources. By forming the Down East Drug Task Force, our three counties pooled our resources and have had much success in arresting those selling drugs over the past year and we are dedicated to continuing to rid our community of these violent offenders.   Having the US Attorney’s office on board only increases our resources to make our counties a safer place to live.”

Sheriff Hayes agreed with Holley’s statement.

“When the local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies are working together, our communities become a safer place to live,” Hayes noted. “This partnership is a great asset to Hertford County when we are trying to make our home a safer place for our families and our neighborhoods from drugs and violent crimes. I’ve had the opportunity to work on a FBI Task Force in the past and we made a dent in the drug trade and violent crime in Hertford County.

“The law enforcement agencies and our citizens share this common goal and that is the fight against the illegal sale and use of narcotics and violent crimes that hurt our love ones and our community. So let’s take back our neighborhoods and our streets together,” Hayes added.

“I am very grateful for the collaboration with the US Attorney and his office,” Sheriff Smith said. “Having the full force of the federal government with us only strengthens our resources on fighting these violent crimes resulting from drugs and firearms. The Down East Drug Task Force has shown us that working across county lines works. Now we have help from the federal government as well.”

“I am thankful for the success of the Down East Drug Task Force and for the fact the US Attorney Higdon and his office recognized the hard work of these officers and are willing to come down to add resources for making our community a safer place to live. I look forward to a very fruitful working relationship between our agents and the US Attorney’s office,” Fitzhugh stated.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal