Love them or hate them, when most people think of “Smurfs,” images of diminutive blue cartoon people spring to mind. When Claremore police think of “smurfs” however, they think of something entirely different — specifically, a person who makes numerous small quantity purchases of psuedoephedrine products from various retail outlets (the act of which is called “smurfing”) with the intent to provide it to those would use it to manufacture meth.
Since last Friday, more than 30 such “smurfs” have been arrested in the Claremore area, in a multi-agency initiative coordinated locally by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
“What we’ve been doing since Friday is working with the OBN in conducting an undercover operation, targeting ‘smurfs’ and would-be ‘smurfs’, who either purchase or attempt to purchase pseudoephedrine with the intent to provide it for someone who in turn, uses it to manufacture methamphetamine,” explains Claremore Police Investigator John Singer. “Our primary focus has been a south Claremore pharmacy which — unfortunately for us — is the 19th busiest in the state, in terms of ‘smurf’ activity.
“Believe it or not, this is actually an improvement from where it was last spring — it was the second ‘busiest’ in the state — that’s certainly not a distinction anyone would want to have and we’ve been working hard against this,” he said. “This (operation) has relied heavily on our officers working undercover in and around local pharmacies to identify and catch these guys, making arrests for everything from misdemeanor charges such as attempting to obtain or purchase more than 9 grams of pseudoephedrine (the legal limit purchasable in one month) to possession and endeavoring to manufacture.”
Case in point, during one ‘smurf stop’, Sgt. Wayne Stinnett identified and followed a suspect out of the pharmacy’s parking lot, finding him to be in possession of large quantities of pseudoephedrine and drain cleaner — both of which are key ingredients in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.
Although Singer said he’s not inclined to reveal the specifics of how police and other law officers identify or target suspects, rarely are law officers in error about those they suspect as being “smurfs.”
“Let’s just say we haven’t been mistaken about anyone we’ve stopped or pulled over (under suspicion of ‘smurfing’) during this operation — we know what we’re doing,” he said.
Singer did note that typically, those who “smurf” tend to do so in towns other than where they live, in hopes of not being identified as making or attempting to make purchases (of pseudoephedrine) in excess of the legal limit (9 grams per month).
“That ‘trick’ if you want to call it that, almost never works — like I said, we know what we’re doing and who these people are,” he said.
As to how successful the initiative has been locally, Singer was pleased.
“It’s been a good operation for us — not in all the arrests we’ve made, per se, but because we’ve had fewer (arrests) to make than the last time we had one of these inititives,” he said. “That tells us that the ‘smurfing’ problem isn’t as bad as it was several months ago — still not gone, but certainly a lot better than it was, and I would also reiterate that just because this (operation) is over, this doesn’t mean we’re not going to be watching the pharmacies in Claremore. This is a problem we want to get rid of entirely — anyone who purchases pseudoephedrine with any intent other than its intended purpose — for them or their family to use — is going to have our attention. We’ll be watching.”