City, county officials join forces in fighting crime

Mike Linn

City and county law enforcement officials say they are neutralizing criminal activity and the area drug trade by aggressively sharing information, a trend that expedites investigations on suspected criminals.
While the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department and the Portales Police Department are separate entities, it’s important the two departments work together to fight crime, Portales Police Chief Jeff Gill said.
“This is the best rapport we’ve had with the Sheriff’s Department in the 10 years I’ve been here,” said Gill, who has been working law enforcement for 27 years.
In the past, politics hampered information flow between the two municipalities, where obtaining credit for arrests would often discourage teamwork, county and city law enforcement officials said.
“The flow of information now is better, smoother and more timely,” Gill said. “Being in law enforcement so long, getting credit (for arrests) doesn’t mean anything.”
Roosevelt County Sheriff Tom Gossett and Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry agreed with Gill’s assessment of information sharing. Berry said many of the eight methamphetamine laboratory busts this year are a result of city and county police officers working together.
Regarding felony drugs, methamphetamine is the drug of choice in Roosevelt County, followed by cocaine and black-tar heroin, police say.
“At the rate meth use is climbing in the area, there will be very few families not affected in five years,” Berry said.
While not as physically addicting as cocaine and heroin, police say meth’s popularity is based on its accessibility and the fact that it can be made from over-the-counter products.
Berry said many users will steal rather than buy such products if they don’t have money.
Officials said shoplifters on Wednesday stole a bottle of iodine — one ingredient needed to make meth — from a local feed store.
City police information provided to the sheriff’s department allowed county officials to nab the suspects lying in a field south of town.
Jurisdiction for city police is within city limits, although Gossett has commissioned police to go outside city limits to make arrests if necessary. County officials mainly work outside of the city in Roosevelt County, but are also permitted to make arrests in Portales.
In the case of violent crimes, including the shooting that took place at the Valle del Solle apartments Sunday night in Portales, multiple law-enforcement agents may become involved. Gossett showed up to lend a hand to Gill, Berry and state police officers at the scene on Sunday.
“Our goal is to continue this working relationship, and do the best job we can do to make solid arrests and convictions,” Gill said.