The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office unveiled its fourth and largest drug roundup in county history this morning following an indictment of more than 60 suspected drug dealers earlier this month.
Arrests are expected to be continuing as the Times-News goes to press.
While the operation, dubbed “Route 66,” officially commenced after a 6 a.m. briefing at Emergency Medical Services’ headquarters in Lincolnton, deputies worked with undercover narcotics to serve one of the indicted individuals at his home late Tuesday afternoon.
In the incident, law enforcement officials arrested Johnny Allen Bivens, 21, of 1846 Beaumont Lane in Lincolnton, on charges of trafficking and selling opiates, case officer S. Dombrowski told the Times-News. Bivens was placed under a $65,000 bond, according to the jail website.
Deputies seized prescription pills, marijuana and at least a couple hundred dollars in the incident, according to Lt. Jason Reid, head of the narcotics division and SWAT, who was planning to knock down doors to residences in Lincolnton, Vale and Denver this morning in the ongoing operation.
Following a year of more than 150 drug-related arrests, 138 of which stemmed solely from round-up operations, including one in January and one in June, deputies have yet to sweep all of Lincoln County’s drug activity off the streets.
Hardcore illegal substances such as heroin and cocaine continue to surface in the community as well as marijuana and an influx of prescription pills, Reid said.
Nearly 190 individuals have been indicted in the four large-scale initiatives since the first one, “Operation Rolling 50,” launched in August 2011.
In addition, most of the defendants have since been convicted and locked up, Reid said as he praised the District Attorney’s Office for its excellent working relationship with the Sheriff’s Office.
The DA’s Office, which gives the law enforcement agency a flexible deadline for turning in reports for potential indictments, read through 66 reports in a matter of two weeks for this month’s round-up.
“This is the most aggressive DA’s Office I’ve ever worked with,” Reid said. He also noted that Lincoln County prosecutors are “not in favor of giving drug traffickers a deal.”
Sheriff David Carpenter had nothing but complimentary words for the drug unit’s continued crackdown on illegal substances, calling it “the best” in the region.
“After 22 months in office and 188 drug dealers under indictment, this is continuing to be the most aggressive action on drug dealers ever in the history of our county,” he said.
Carpenter feels the initiatives send the area a “clear signal” that the county suffers from a significant drug problem, but that they also reveal the department’s seriousness in regularly attacking the issue.
Road and narcotics officers often seize illegal substances during the year from “buy busts” and search warrants, but Reid believes round-ups have a greater impact on the community.
“They (citizens) see more of what we’re doing,” Reid said. “You don’t round-up that many drug traffickers in one day and not have an impact.”
The operations additionally warn area criminals that justice lurks nearby.
Unfortunately, some dealers have become acutely aware of the agency’s quantity of round-ups, forcing undercover officers to adjust their measures at times.
“With each round-up, we work harder because they (suspects) learn our tactics,” Reid said.
Since Carpenter took office in December 2010, he’s allowed the narcotics unit considerable freedom in how it implicates local delinquents.
“The Sheriff has allowed us to think outside the box and work at our own pace with no speed bumps,” Reid said. “He continues to push us to be proactive.”
Reid believes law enforcement agencies can’t be reactive only in how they target crime but must develop keener ways of sniffing out illegal activity prior to it taking place, ultimately safeguarding the community.
“A proactive law enforcement officer stops a crime before it happens,” Reid said. “We set the bar higher each time — not that we’ll always reach it, but we’ll do more each year (to apprehend dealers).”
Despite the drug unit’s obvious effectiveness under Reid’s command, he credits Carpenter with the agency’s copious success over the last two years.
“It’s obvious since the Sheriff was elected … one man can make a difference,” Reid said.
Operation “Route 66” is ongoing, and more arrests are expected to occur.