61 arrested in southern Arkansas drug operation

Sixty-one residents of southern Arkansas were arrested this week on various drug-related charges, the 13th Judicial Drug Task Force said Tuesday.

According to a press release, the DTF works with the Union, Ouachita, Dallas, Columbia and Calhoun County Sheriff’s Offices; El Dorado, Smackover, Magnolia, Camden, Bearden, Fordyce, and Hampton Police Departments; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, made the arrests between January 23 and 30.

Officer Jonathan Messer, director of the DTF, said the agencies’ investigation began in November.

“The last three days of that have been sort of a takedown part of it, if you will. It actually started on November 1st. We basically just built cases, bought drugs,” Messer said, referring to covert drug purchases. “Some of these things came from traffic stops.”

Messer declined to share details of the investigation, saying the arrests were spread across all counties in the 13th judicial circuit. He directed the News-Times to District Attorney Jeff Rogers for details on which Union County individuals were arrested, but Rogers did not return a call regarding the arrests as of Tuesday’s press time.

As of Jan. 23, law enforcement agencies involved in the drug bust were executing multiple search and arrest warrants across the district, according to the press release. During the searches, police seized 1,011 grams of methamphetamine; 218.8 grams of crack cocaine; 79 grams of cocaine powder; 2,610.4 grams of marijuana; 829 different pills; $28,342.65 cash; a vehicle; and 52 firearms.

Messer said those arrested face charges ranging from supplying and possessing narcotics and possession with intent to supply, to maintaining a drug premises, possession of drug paraphernalia and simultaneous possession of narcotics and firearms.

“Most of them were crimes, it’s safe to say that,” Messer said.

Last week’s operation follows another recent drug raid conducted by the DTF in conjunction with the El Dorado Police Department and the Union County Sheriff’s Office. On January 3, six local residents were arrested on drug charges ranging from misdemeanor to felonies after police searched three homes in the city. Messer said those arrests were included in the count of that operation.

Messer said it’s important to the community for law enforcement to work together across the district, noting that crime often crosses county lines.

“It’s not just our big areas, it’s our rural areas that have the same problems. There are drug problems in all counties and we’re just trying to fix them,” he said.

Drugs, guns and cash were seized this week by the 13th Circuit Drugs Task Force and other local law enforcement agencies. (Courtesy of the 13th Judicial Drug Task Force/Special to the News-Times)

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