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Sting nets 42 drug arrests
Sub Drugs
A small plastic bag containing what appears to be powdered cocaine is found in a car that was seized during Operation Clean Sweep. - photo by Photo provided.
Operation Clean Sweep, a five-month drug sting managed by the Multi Agency Crack Enforcement Drug Task Force, was declared a success by Liberty County Sheriff, Don Martin.
The sting netted 42 arrests with more arrests and charges pending.
According to MACE Unit Commander Al Cato, the operation began back in January and continued until May. Undercover agents reportedly made purchases throughout Liberty County and the city of Hinesville as they allegedly gathered information on suspected local dealers.
With the information in hand and subpoenas ready, MACE called in support as they began to round up the alleged suspects the first week of June.
"It took us all week to pick them up and process them but in the first two days alone we arrested 42 people," Cato said. "There are still nine suspects out there that appear to have packed their bags and left the area but we are still in the process of making arrests. There are definitely more pending and those that fled the area will be entered in the NCIC."
Cato said support units from the Liberty County Sheriff's Office, Hinesville Police Department, the National Guard, Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police, Chatham County K-9, GBI, U.S. Marshall's Office, Georgia State Patrol and an Inspector for the United States Postal Service were on hand to assist in the round up.
"22 people were arrested in the city of Hinesville," Cato said. "The rest were from different parts of the county including Midway, Riceboro, Walthourville and Allenhurst."
“It's astonishing really," Sheriff Martin said about the amount of people arrested. "We have a great MACE team and we try and operate like separate entities, especially on an operation like this to reduce the possibility of any information being accidentally leaked."
According to MACE some of the suspects rounded up are considered to be the lead local suppliers of drugs within the county. Though not the main source they are considered to be among the main distributors.
In addition to the 42 arrests, two vehicles were seized, 7.5 grams of crack cocaine, 8 grams of powdered cocaine, 12 marijuana plants and roughly three ounces of marijuana were taken off the street.
Charges range from sale of cocaine to sale of marijuana, possession of cocaine, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, manufacturing marijuana, intent to manufacture marijuana, tools of the crime, use of communication facility, possession of marijuana and cruelty to animals (dogs). "We had not done something like this in a long time," Cato said. "We were due."
In their normal operation MACE would make arrests immediately after an undercover purchase or when someone was found in possession of narcotics. But this sting allowed the agents to make frequent undercover purchases and establish a pool of suspects who were later rounded up and arrested striking a major blow to the local drug market.
"We got some positive feedback from the folks in the community on this operation," Cato said.
Sheriff Martin agrees the operation was a complete success, adding an operation such as this one needs to be sporadic to maintain the element of surprise.
"You can't set a set time or pattern in an operation like this because then the dealers will know when it's time to lay low," he said. "But we did feel like one was due and, while we don't plan to announce where or when, operations like this one will run periodically. If we let things like this go on for too long it's like flood waters that just keep coming in. Eventually you will have trouble with it."
With the success of the operation the sheriff had a message to those in the community.
"You are going to get by with it one time," he said. "You may get by with it twice but soon we are going to get you. And when we get you, you are going to pay for it dearly. "

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