County-wide drug sweep

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 19, 2009

By John Howell

A county-wide sweep by law enforcement officials had at mid-morning Thursday netted about half of about 30 suspects indicted for drug sales following undercover investigations in the county.

“We determined to do a roundup, something we hadn’t done in several years,” Panola County Sheriff Otis Griffin said.

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Griffin said that officers from at least six jurisdictions started making arrests at 5 a.m. Thursday.

“We were getting them out of bed hoping to catch them before they could get on the move,” the sheriff said.

Officers missed some of the suspects. “I’m sure they are aware we’re looking for them,” the sheriff said. “They have the right to turn themselves in. If not we’ll continue to search for them.”

Officers from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, the U. S. Marshall’s service, the Batesville and Sardis Police Departments, and the Panola Sheriff’s Department joined Panola Narcotics Task Force officers to make the arrests. “Most of those arrested had two or three sales on each,” Griffin said. Sales were made to confidential informants and recorded on video, the sheriff continued.

The sales included crack cocaine, marijuana and a number of prescription drugs. “All of a sudden … everybody wants pain killers,” Sheriff Griffin said.

Panola Narcotics Task Force Commander Jason Chrestman said that purchases from suspects began early last summer. “We had two grand juries real close together in the First and Second (Panola County Judicial) Districts and we decided to round them up at the same time.”

“We had real good cooperation as far as the different agencies are concerned,” the sheriff continued. “All of us are working toward a common goal; that common goal is to clean it up.”

The sheriff said that eight officers from the Marshall’s service, five from MBI, and three or four each from the Sardis and Batesville police departments joined deputies of the sheriff’s department and task force to allow apprehension of as many suspects as possible within a short time period.

“We’re not stopping here. If you’re doing it you’re going to get caught,” Griffin said.

Support fo the Panola County Narcotics Task Force includes funds from a Federal Byrne Formula Grant, a Program of Justice Programs administered by the Mississippi Division of Public Safety Planning, a sheriff’s department spokesman said.