High cost: Big money being spent in local drug fight

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 28, 2008

It can truthfully be said that the cost of drug abuse in terms of wrecked lives and misery cannot be calculated. This type of damage is both tragic and irreparable.

But dollars and cents costs are also borne by a community — sometimes needlessly.

Consider that Vicksburg has only one gated residential area with 24-hour security and key-card access. It’s not for the super-rich. It’s Waltersville estates, an apartment complex on North Washington Street owned and operated by the Vicksburg Housing Authority.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Through the years we’ve written countless stories on more and more layers of protection being purchased for residents of the complex. A most telling reality was reflected in a report in the spring when the VHA said it had a waiting list of people needing public housing and 24 vacancies at Waltersville. But none of the prospective clients would move in at Waltersville. Things had to be pretty bad for people to prefer homelessness.

Now we learn it’s altogether possible that while hundreds of thousands of dollars were being spent trying to keep drugs out of Waltersville Estates, a key manager of the Vicksburg Housing Authority might have been using the enclave to house the clientele of his personal narcotics business.

Charles Jones Jr., facing charges related to taking delivery of a 2.2-pound package of cocaine worth $100,000 mailed to him at the VHA office, is an innocent man unless or until a jury says otherwise. But if the 45-year-old Jones, a 25-year VHA employee in charge of maintenance, purchasing and receiving, is also a drug dealer, it would explain a lot.

Multiple agencies participated in the investigation that led to Jones’ being charged. Police Chief Tommy Moffett said informants had been offering information about Jones for five years, but the case was difficult to make. James Stirgus Sr., the VHA executive director who has said in the past he didn’t think local law enforcement was doing enough to help keep drugs out of public housing, was both shocked and chagrined and made a personal apology to Moffett.

Stirgus also said he fears an elevated stigma will attach to clients, specifically that all who live in public housing are druggies. They’re not. Most are just like everybody else — trying to work, raise families, pay bills and pay taxes.

How wasteful the spending of tax dollars on security at Waltersville will prove to have been if it’s shown the main person trafficking drugs was a person with unlimited and unquestioned access.