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Police target suspected drug dealers as roundup continues

Lincolnton Police Officer Trey Hayes handcuffs Nathan James Sigmon of 392 Turner Street after arresting him Wednesday morning on drug charges during Operation Early Christmas.
Ray Gora / Lincoln Times-News

Staff Writer

Since Wednesday morning, police have apprehended more than 30 people accused of drug-related charges in connection with roundup “Operation Early Christmas,” the first initiative of its kind in 2012 and the department’s fifth one since December 2009, when they carried out “Operation Blue Christmas.”
Lt. Brian Greene, head of criminal investigations, told the Times-News he hoped to handcuff at least 80 percent of the wanted individuals in one day.
Officers secured arrest warrants against nearly 60 suspects in the operation and filed more than 200 charges.
At least eight teams of five to six officers, including Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputies, knocked on suspects’ residences starting at 6 a.m., following a briefing at Lincolnton Police Department, headed by Greene and Narcotics Investigator Det. Sgt. Jason Munday.
The Times-News rode along with one team, who first apprehended two sisters living in nearby residences on Lynch and Hubbard Streets.
During the day, officers served most warrants by simply knocking on suspects’ doors; Officer Isaiah Matthews said not every arrest always flows so smoothly.
“We have a right to bust down the door and make a forceful entry as long as we see a person inside, and they aren’t coming to the door,” he said.
In addition, in every situation, police must anticipate non-compliant suspects.
“If a suspect knows you’ve got a warrant on them, they’ll try to run — not all of them, but it happens,” Matthews said.
“They come out, and you might get in a foot chase; you might get in a fight. You never know.”
Police additionally served a warrant Wednesday at Lincolnton High School.
Jerry Nathaniel Crump, 19, of Lincolnton, was delivering lunch to someone at the campus when officers apprehended him and located 32 klonopin pills on him, Greene said.
Officers also located a marijuana plant at his residence earlier in the day.
While some of the operation’s suspects are accused of marijuana use, others are charged with trafficking and selling and delivering more hardcore substances such as cocaine, heroin and bath salts.
Over the last decade, Greene said drug use across the city has neither increased nor decreased, but the types of drugs have changed, including a rise in heroin and pharmaceuticals, a trend the Sheriff’s Office narcotics officers told the Times-News they also noted in their October roundup, “Operation Route 66.”
Greene said for the most part, drug transactions during the last year involving those being charged this week took place inside the police department’s jurisdiction, and a majority of the accused are first-time offenders.
“It has to be something that’s taken place inside the city,” he said.
Police additionally secured search warrants last December against various local convenient stores, who were believed to be illegally selling bath salts.
Greene said convenient store employee Lori Michael Sronce, 49, of Lincolnton, had been selling the highly addictive and potent substances at A-1 Express Mart on East Main Street. In addition, police are still on the hunt


Image courtesy of KaAnSuli | Lincoln Times-News

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