David Ethredge, 14th Judicial Circuit prosecuting attorney, said the recent methamphetamine seizure near Alpena was the second largest in the state and the largest in the western district of the state.
Ethredge, Boone County Sheriff Mike Moore and Harrison Police Chief Chris Graddy met with reporters Friday morning about the incident in which 149 pounds of meth with a street value of about $6.7 million were seized.
On June 5, federal authorities, along with officers from both departments above and the 14th Judicial Drug Task Force, worked together to make the round-up of suspects.
And while federal authorities supplied money for drug buys to establish the case and did all the court work for indictments, Ethredge said it wouldn’t have been possible without local law enforcement.
“When the operation is going on, it’s the officers doing this,” Ethredge said. “They’re the ones who’ve been out investigating. They’re the ones who have been involved in doing the research, who’ve been looking at what these people are doing.”
The prosecutor explained that the round-up is truly a military operation. The suspects “are not nice people” and they’re not going to be happy with being arrested, so it takes a lot of officers to accomplish the task.
“But all that has been predicated by the work that’s been done by the people on the ground because it’s not going to happen without task force officers, sheriff’s deputies, police officers who all work together to try to make this happen,” Ethredge said.
He went on to say that local officers have a good working relationship with federal officers. When they work together, the sum of their total is even greater than their individual parts.
Graddy said the operation had been ongoing for six years, even before he was named police chief earlier this year.
Ethredge said there is a misconception that there are meth labs locally, but such is not the case. Arkansas laws have changed and people can no longer get the necessary ingredients. Meth made now is done so in Mexico, where pseudoephedrine, the major precursor for meth, is uncontrolled and shipped in from China.
“If anybody thinks we don’t have a border crisis,” Sheriff Moore said, “they’re ignorant. And it’s not just a border crisis, it’s a 50-state border crisis — it affects every state in our country.”
The meth seized in the most recent case was smuggled in liquid form, then taken to a conversion lab to become the crystal form. Although officers are trained to look for meth in the solid form, the liquid form could be poured into juice bottles, then rewrapped to look like a case and it will be much more difficult to detect, Moore said.
“Drugs are a major problem,” Chief Graddy said. “It’s tied to a very high percent of all our crimes. We’re going to commit to do our best job to combat it the best we can.” He added that a second narcotics officer has been added at the HPD.
Moore said law enforcement is making an impact, although some people think they’re losing the war on drugs and that’s not true.
“We may get behind,” Moore said. “We may be at a disadvantage, but we don’t lose it until we quit and we’re not going to quit.”