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Arrest sweep nets 22 drug suspects, other offenders
Gainesville Police Chief Brian Kelly, right, and Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic speak Thursday afternoon at a press conference following an arrest sweep of suspected drug users, dealers and probation violators. - photo by EMMA WITMAN

A joint effort between the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and Gainesville Police netted 22 arrests Thursday of suspected drug users, dealers and probation violators.

“When you have a major operation like this it sends a strong message out to the people involved in illegal narcotics and their distribution,” Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic said.

The task force for what was called Operation Jingle Jail began organizing in mid-September, creating a list of 30 suspects and planning their arrests.

Narcotics Lt. Scott Ware said the effort included undercover officers and confidential informants.

Authorities arrested about half of the suspects on their list, plus seven others who were caught as a byproduct of the operation.

Ware said most of those arrested were low- and mid-level dealers. He said he hopes the operation will eventually result in the arrests of higher level dealers.

Cronic and Gainesville Police Chief Brian Kelly also noted the effects of the drug use on those arrested and the community at large.

Kelly noted the aged appearance of some of the suspects’ booking photos, a clear reflection of the harmful effects of methamphetamine, he said.

“It’s a terrible drug, one of the most harmful and most addictive,” he said.

Cronic said efforts like Thursday’s remind him of the importance of programs like ADVANCE, which teaches fifth graders the dangers of bad choices. Graduations from that program have been held the last two weeks at area schools.

“We talk about peer pressure all the time,” Cronic said. “Some of these people weren’t even targeted. They were just hanging with the wrong crowd.”

Ware said authorities are still in the process of trying to round up the remaining people on the list.

“You never know when we’re going to show up,” Kelly said. “We’re doing what he can to keep up and keep Hall County the safest community that we can.”

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