‘Offer help instead of handcuffs’ St. Tammany announces progressive drug program

Crime

Covington Police and the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Department announce progressive drug-fighting program Monday, May 1, 2016. (Derek Felton/WGNO)

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COVINGTON, La. (WGNO) – North Shore law enforcement agencies announced a progressive drug-fighting program that would cost as little as “a tank of gas.” Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz announced the beginning of “Operation Angel,” Monday at a joint press conference with St. Tammany Parish.

Operation Angel allows those suffering from drug addiction to show up at any police station in St. Tammany Parish and ask for help without the fear of going to jail.

“We need to give these people help, and treat addiction as a disease, not a crime,” said Chief Lentz. “We would rather you spend six months in a treatment program than spend six months in jail.  We want to keep you out of the criminal justice system.”

However, anyone caught dealing drugs will be prosecuted. The program is only intended to help users. The idea is to attack the demand for drugs rather than the supply.

Chief Lentz said the program followed in the footsteps of a program out of Gloucester, Massachusetts, but it’s the first of its kind in Louisiana.

The Operation Angel program is in 23 states with at least 100 agencies participating.

“It’s to offer help instead of handcuffs,” said St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister.

Chief Lentz ended a press release announcing the program with this quote below from Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello

“Your life is more meaningful than your death.  Don’t be ashamed of your illness.  We are not ashamed of you.  It’s time…come and get help…and if you are discouraged because you’ve tried before, know that relapse is part of the disease and we will be there again, and again, and again until you make it.  And you can make it.  We don’t want to lose you.  When you are ready, we will be there.”

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