Wheeling Police Department Operation Leads to Multiple Drug Arrests
WHEELING — Criminal data analysis and resources for special investigations were two keys to the successful operation that led to multiple arrests and drug seizures in downtown Wheeling, Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said Wednesday.
Over the past several months, police had received numerous complaints about suspected criminal activity at the Knight’s Inn — also known as the Wheeling Inn — at 949 Main St. near the primary entrance to the city’s downtown. The police chief said data analysis prompted the department to pinpoint and prioritize its investigative resources and launch a special operation at this site.
“We were getting a ton of complaints from citizens and businesses in this area,” Schwertfeger said. “That particular hotel has been the source of many complaints over the years.”
Every two weeks, the Wheeling Police Department holds a CompStat meeting and breaks down data on crimes reported and suspected criminal activity observed around town. The city is divided into districts, with two police beats per district, and officers review and discuss strategies to address items on the crime analyst’s report for each particular beat.
The effort that led to the special operation at the Wheeling Inn involved a probe that logged 202 hours over the course of the past month, police said. As a result, a total of 13 people were arrested on criminal charges and 14 additional citations were issued.
“This entire operation was primarily done by our patrol officers, with the support of our Drug Task Force,” Schwertfeger said, noting that he was very pleased with the work of the department, particularly the patrol division. “Under the leadership of Sgt. Jason Hupp, our officers were able to make a direct impact in downtown, with the goal in mind to continue the Wheeling Police Department’s core mission of making Wheeling a safer community.”
Ultimately, the goal of this special operation was to target criminal drug activity, prostitution and other quality of life complaints in the city’s downtown. A total of seven different search warrants were executed at the hotel, Schwertfeger said Wednesday, noting that the operation also benefited law enforcement by enabling officers to gather information on other drug-related crimes and activity throughout the area.
Among the illegal drugs confiscated during the operation were 1.99 grams of cocaine, 2.24 grams of fentanyl, 0.97 grams of heroin, 512.739 grams of marijuana, 8.49 grams of methamphetamine, an assortment of prescription pills and paraphernalia including digital sales, needles and smoking devices.
Funding for the special operation topped $7,000, provided primarily through Community Development Block Grant funding.
Schwertfeger said the owner of the hotel and an employee were among those arrested and charged with maintaining or operating a drug premises. They included Anand Arvind Patel, 37, and Daniel Paul Wheeler, 30, both of Wheeling.
Others arrested as part of the special operation included:
– David Arthur Hess, 58, of Wheeling, felony possession with intent to deliver
– Eric Lee Hercules, 39, of Wheeling, two counts of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance
– Bryan L. Broomes, 43, of Wheeling, misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance
– Tiffany Nicole Fazio, 32, of Wheeling, two misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance
– Edgar Eugene Hatten, 40, of Wheeling, two counts of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance
– James Allen Lucious, 62, of Wheeling one misdemeanor count of possession of a controlled substance
– Michael Leander Gross, 55, of Martins Ferry, aggravated driving under the influence
– Beth Ann Davis, 38, of Wheeling, on a warrant for failure to appear for a possession charge out of Belmont County
– Joseph Micah Pepp, 28, of Pittsburgh, on a warrant for arson out of Allegheny County, Pa.
– Brandy Lee Plunkett, 40, of Wheeling, on a warrant for obstructing out of Belmont County
– William Lee Stevens II, 30, of Wheeling, wanted for obstructing.
The police chief said that the arrests that took place have left him with “serious concerns” about the future operation of the hotel, noting that action to deem the site a public nuisance is “certainly on the table,” to prevent the site from continuing to be a hive of criminal activity in the future.
Another concern stemming from this special operation was the fact that repeat offenders continue to be released back onto the streets to offend again, Schwertfeger said, indicating that a practice of catch-and-release needs to stop when it comes to the same familiar names and faces of people committing crimes over and over again without any severe punishment after they are arrested.
“I’m extremely frustrated,” he noted. “Citizens of this city deserve to have their criminal justice system working to keep these people off of the streets. I feel like it’s a revolving door. We need to buckle down and hold these people accountable.”
Police said the department is committed to fighting criminal activity in the downtown and throughout all of the neighborhoods in Wheeling. Residents and visitors can report crime by phone at 304-234-3664, via the anonymous tip line at wheelingw.gov/crimetip or the regional Crime Stoppers of the Upper Ohio Valley tip line at 877-TIPS4US.