SARASOTA (FOX 13) - It's called Operation Spring Smackdown and it put 28 people behind bars. Most of them, according to Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight, are addicted to drugs.
"We don't want to arrest them with the hopes that they get clean because they get arrested. Arresting them is keeping them safe because they don't have access to it in our jail. It's more important they get clean for the longevity of their life," he said Friday morning.
Most are addicted to the hard stuff like heroin. It's causing big problems in the area.
Last year Sarasota County had 165 overdoses and 17 deaths. Just four months into this year, there have already been 71 overdoses and 14 deaths.
Sheriff Knight said deputies have a four-step approach to tackling the problem: Enforcement, prevention, education and treatment.
Yet there's only so much they can do. He said they need the community's help.
"There are opportunities here to get your loved ones clean. You just have to find it and take advantage of it. Don't be complacent by sitting there and waiting for somebody else to do it for you," he said.
Knight asks the community to step up and help those fighting addictions. He said jail is keeping them alive but it's not prolonging their lives.
"Maybe do an intervention. Contact First Step, contact Bayside, contact somebody and start researching the opportunities to get their loved ones into recovery programs," he continued.
"It's a must if we are to do anything with this epidemic," said. P.J. Brooks, who helps run First Step of Sarasota.
Brooks echoes the sheriff's advice and said, while jail sends a message, it's not a solution.
"We have to keep the doors open, because who knows what it's going to take. And if we can get them into recovery and get them stable, then we've just changed a life," Brooks added.