Highway Drug Blitz Leads to 49 Arrests

Multiple law enforcement agencies arrested 49 people last week during a drug trafficking sweep on Ohio County roads.

Leaders of the Mountaineer Highway Interdiction Team gathered Tuesday at the West Virginia State Police post in Wheeling to discuss the results of their efforts. They included Ohio County Sheriff Pat Butler, U. S. Drug Enforcement Agent Craig Knight, U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld, West Virginia State Police Capt. James Merrill and Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger.

Officials said the blitz, or saturation patrol, took place between Monday and Friday last week with increased patrols. Neighborhoods in Ohio County received extra attention as part of the project, as did parcels and packages that were shipped to and from Northern West Virginia.

Merrill said as a result of the effort, officers made 49 felony and misdemeanor arrests and issued 82 citations. Substances recovered included prescription painkillers, psilocybin and marijuana. Officers also conducted warrant service throughout the area.

“The MHIT team paid extra attention to certain areas of the city last week based upon what we’ve been hearing from members of the community,” Schwertfeger said. “I look forward to organizing enhanced patrols like this one again in the future so that we can continue to identify hot spots and keep Wheeling safe.”

Resources now available to the team on a regular basis include four officers – two of which are K-9 handlers – along with regular support from the DEA.

“MHIT allows us to increase the presence of law enforcement on our roadways and it also serves as a partner to the Ohio Valley Drug Task Force,” Butler said. “The officers coordinate with the task force to combat drug traffickers who attempt to operate in the region.”

Officers also discussed results for the first four months of this year. Between January and April of 2014, MHIT officers made 53 felony arrests, 67 misdemeanor arrests and issued 54 misdemeanor citations. A total of 79 searches were conducted during that time period, including 45 by K-9 units. Drugs valued at $62,493 were seized, and cash connected to criminal activity in the amount of $113,431.

MHIT receives federal funding from the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area initiative.