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Law enforcement 'blitz' results in 49 arrests

Updated: Wednesday, May 28 2014, 10:17 AM EDT

By:Crissy Clutter and NEWS9


Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger, Ohio County Sheriff Pat Butler and Capt. James Merrill of the West Virginia State Police announced the results of an enhanced operation by the Mountaineer Highway Interdiction Team that occurred over the past week in Ohio County.

Leaders of the MHIT agencies explained that a "blitz", or saturation patrol, took place between May 19 and May 23 with increased patrols on highways and secondary roads throughout the area.

Neighborhoods in Ohio County received extra attention as part of the project, as did parcels and packages that were being shipped to and from northern West Virginia.

U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld II said the resources now available to the team on a regular basis include four officers - two of whom are K-9 handlers - along with regular support from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Ihlenfeld said the agencies involved have been very pleased with the team approach to interdiction.

"It shows the bad guys that maybe Ohio County isn't the best place to set up a drug trafficking organization when criminals see marked cars on the interstate, our roads and in our neighborhoods," said Ihlenfeld.

Merrill explained that as a result of the effort last week, 49 felony and misdemeanor arrests were made and 82 citations were issued.

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," said Schwertfeger. "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."

Butler said the team allows deputies to increase the presence of law enforcement on roadways and it also serves as a partner to the Ohio Valley Drug Task Force.

"The MHIT officers coordinate with the task force officers to combat drug traffickers who attempt to operate in the region." said Butler.

The MHIT leaders also discussed results for the first four months of this year.

Between January and April of 2014, MHIT officers made 53 felony arrests, 76 misdemeanor arrests, and issued 44 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 has been seized and either will be forfeited or has already been returned to crime victims.

"MHIT's primary purpose is to enhance regional interdiction operations in order to slow the flow of illegal drugs into and through the State of West Virginia," said Ihlenfeld. "The major focus of MHIT is on highways and state routes but it also concentrates on airports, bus terminals, hotels, motels and parcel and package interdiction."

Ihlenfeld said MHIT also assists in investigating kidnapings, bank robberies, carjackings, Amber Alerts and interstate theft; the detection and enforcement of firearms and explosives; human trafficking and immigration violations; and with fugitive apprehension.

Law enforcement 'blitz' results in 49 arrests

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