Pubdate: Fri, 02 Jul 2004
Source: Charlotte Observer (NC)
Copyright: 2004 The Charlotte Observer
Author: Mary Jo Talbot Balasco


Federal, County Money Will Help Create Unit That Patrols Major
Roadways For Narcotics, Criminal Activity

A drug team will soon begin patrolling York County highways looking
for narcotics and criminal activity because of a $146,000 federal
grant awarded to the Sheriff's department. York County matched the
grant with about $49,000, making the total project amount $195,000.
Funds will provide training and salary for two Sheriff's deputies; a
dog and equipment including uniforms, cars, cameras, road radar and

The grant is renewable for up to three years, then York County
will fund the team. The interdiction team will work the main highways
of the county looking for traffic violations or criminal activity to
enforce drug laws, said Commander Marvin Brown of the York County drug
enforcement unit. Stopping someone for a traffic violation sometimes
leads officers to discover other crimes, said Brown. "You have to have
a reason to stop someone," Brown said. "We start with a traffic
violation and look for anything suspicious, like a person who says
they are traveling a great distance but has no luggage." The team
can't search just anyone -- there has to be probable cause, Brown
said. "You may stop someone who is speeding and notice marijuana seeds
on the seat," Brown said. A series of large drug seizures within the
last four years on and around major York County highways has prompted
the need for the team, Sheriff Captain Glenn Williams said. Since
2000, three tractor-trailer trucks containing marijuana, using
Interstate 77 as a corridor through York County, were stopped, said

In November alone, authorities said they recovered 2,254
pounds of marijuana with a street value of $5.1 million. In 2003, the
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration seized 2 pounds of
methamphetamine and a half kilo of powder cocaine on I-77 in York
County, Commander Brown said. For the last five years, the York County
drug enforcement unit has averaged more than 100 drug cases per month,
Brown said, making it difficult for them to watch highways. "We are
missing a lot of drugs on the interstate because we can't work the
neighborhoods and the interstate," Brown said, "The interdiction team
will fill that void." Drugs frequently found traveling through York
County are powder cocaine, crack, ecstasy and marijuana, said Lt.
Jason Dalton of the York County drug enforcement unit. "These drugs
are coming in from places like Atlanta and Texas and are going to
Charlotte, but some of the drugs are coming here," Dalton said. The
interdiction team is a tool to stop drugs before they get to the
community, he said Interstates 85 and 95 are patrolled by neighboring
interdiction teams and in this area I-77 needs monitoring, Dalton
said. In 2003, more than 66,000 cars used I-77 to pass through York
County borders daily, according to the S.C. Department of
Transportation. There are 303 miles of major highways in York County
- -- more than 21 of those miles are on I-77, authorities said.

Interdiction teams in surrounding counties have been effective in
combating drugs, authorities said. Sgt. Shea Smith of the Greenville
County Sheriff's Office said Greenville has had several large seizures
of narcotics and money, and numerous arrests of felons in and around
I-85 since forming its team two years ago. Drug availability on local
streets has decreased because of the interception of drugs on the
interstate, Smith said.
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