HALEYVILLE, Alabama – Beverage Control officials named a major joint law enforcement venture Saturday as Operation Cupid’s Arrow in honor of Valentine’s Day, as they sent out strong messages that purchasing pseudo-ephedrine products for illegal purposes will not be tolerated.
When the joint operation ended late Saturday afternoon, 10 traffic stops had been made spanning not only across Haleyville but outlying areas. Among the traffic stops were seven manufacturing methamphetamine cases including three manufacturing arrests.
A total three subjects were taken into custody from the stops and transported the Winston County Jail, Double Springs. Not all persons nabbed or stopped were charged Saturday but warrants are being obtained with charges forthcoming, according to ABC agents. As of press time, 17 had reportedly been arrested stemming from Saturday’s activity.
As authorities nabbed two for manufacturing on a traffic stop, they also confiscated their 1987 red Toyota pickup which was stored by law enforcement behind the former Ford building, until it was towed from the scene by Lyle’s Wrecker Service, Haleyville.
A breakdown included four manufacturing cases made by ABC and Winston County sheriff’s office, three drug paraphernalia cases made by the sheriff’s office, three manufacturing cases and possession cases handled by ABC, two controlled substance cases by the sheriff’s office and two nabbed on failure to appear by Lynn police.
Authorities spanning from ABC, Winston County sheriff’s office, police departments from Haleyville, Double Springs, Arley, and Lynn and Winston/Marion district attorney’s office began congregating at a central headquarters at the former Ford dealership, which is now a large vacant building with large parking lot across Highway 195 from Rocky Ravine Park. Agencies from surrounding counties were on stand by in case any of the traffic stops found charges in those areas.
Agencies paired up, some two to a vehicle and dispersed over a 10 mile radius. Winston County sheriff Rick Harris noted a study conducted with the assistance of NADI, a computer generated program, noted that Haleyville had the highest percentage of pseudo-ephedrine sales of the surrounding areas of northwest Alabama.
“It’s something we’re not proud of,” stated Haleyville police chief Kyle Reogas. “…With combined efforts of law enforcement here today, we’re trying to change that…The problem is not just in the city of Haleyville,” Reogas said. “Haleyville has some of the larger volume of sales of the pseudo-ephedrine.”
Sheriff’s narcotics agent Wes Brown indicated the pharmacy at Wal Mart sells 1,200 to 1,500 boxes per month of pseudo-ephedrine related products, with CVS being the second highest seller at 500 to 1,000 boxes per month.
These figures compared with several pharmacies in the Jasper area, such as After Hours which reports only 700 to 800 boxes of such products sold per month and CVS which sells about 1,000 boxes per month. In fact, persons coming to Haleyville to purchase pseudo-ephedrine are not just local residents but are coming from Mississippi, Tennessee and different parts of northwest Alabama, officials noted.
“Just to get the message out, there will be charges on the people that were stopped,” Brown said. It did not matter if the person purchasing the pseudo-ephedrine was actually using it as the key ingredient in making meth or if the persona was a smurf or runner for someone else making meth, charges would be filed either way, authorities said.
“The biggest message is we’re working narcotics in Winston County now. That is something agencies are serious about,” he said.
Another major fuel behind the massive joint effort Saturday was the high level of cooperation that has not been seen for some time between the various agencies, they said.
It also was noted that Saturday’s traffic stops were not just randomly for persons with pseudo-ephedrine but were based on months of investigation in tracking suspects through computers and information logs from pharmacies where these products are being purchased.
“Our biggest thing with this is we’re trying to stop the meth problem where it starts,” noted one ABC agent. “We want people to know we have a unified law enforcement presence in Winston County.”
“We haven’t seen this kind of cooperation in a long time,” noted Lynn police chief Mike Clark, noting his department stopped a vehicle and found there were two warrants for failure to appear from Haleyville. These individuals were picked up the Haleyville PD.
Agencies dispersed to cover practically all areas in the purchase process, with some actually going under-cover at the pharmacy where the pseudo-ephedrine was being purchased. They would communicate with agencies waiting outside the pharmacy which would observe the individuals get into a vehicle, obtain certain information and then would communicate with unmarked units which would make the stops.
“All we did was run surveillance,” noted sheriff’s chief investigative officer David Hester. “We set up at a local pharmacy.”
“Haleyville is not the place to (purchase),” noted sheriff Harris. “Everyday is bad, but Saturday is most busy,” Chief Reogas indicated that use and about of meth, including the key ingredient pseudo-ephedrine, has reached an all time high and must be stopped.
“It’s the concession of all these agencies represented here today, we’ll do all we can to prevent further destruction of lives, separation of families and child births that are affected by this
monster that exists,” said chief Reogas.
“This (Saturday) is not the first operation of this kind, and I can assure you it won’t be the last operation.”