Agents promise more to come
When most people turn in for the night, they don’t expect to wake up the next morning to the sound of police helicopters, screeching tires and federal agents pounding on their front door.
But that’s exactly the kind of wake-up call several city
residents got Friday morning, courtesy of Claremore Police and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
Police, working with the OBN, ended a three-month-long undercover drug sting Friday, with the arrest of more than 30 people connected to drug use or sale. Officers say more arrests are anticipated in the coming weeks.
“Officers from (OBN) and several departments fanned out around 7 a.m. Friday morning, armed with arrest warrants for 42 defendants accused of selling drugs to undercover OBN agents,” said Mark Woodward, OBN spokesman.
Those arrested Friday were connected with selling or buying methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine and/or prescription drugs to undercover agents and could face State minimum charges of distribution of controlled dangerous substances.
“I think Friday morning’s sting execution went exceptionally well,” said Stan Brown, Claremore assistant chief of police. “There was an extensive amount of detailed work that went into its planning — three months worth — and the arrests made that day were the fruits of many, many hours of labor on our part and the part of the OBN.
“Another factor I think makes (Friday’s arrests) such a success is it will help us develop more leads from the information collected from those arrested, and potentially, make future arrests based on those leads,” he said.
Other law agencies working together in Friday’s operation included the Rogers County Sheriff’s Department, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the District 27 Drug Task Force, and the U.S. Marshals Service — 60 law officers in all, sweeping the Claremore area in five teams.
“In 2006, the OBN created a ‘Mobile Operations Team’ or M.O.T., which is designed to specifically identify and target drug suspects within specific communities in Oklahoma,” Woodward said. “Our first operation with the M.O.T. was in Woodward, where 44 arrests were made. We later worked with local officers in similar undercover stings in Bartlesville, Stillwater, Clinton, and now, Claremore.”
In addition to the M.O.T. and local law officers, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics’ helicopter maintained on overhead surveillance of the morning’s operations.
While OBN director Darrell R. Weaver noted Claremore’s problem with illegal drugs may be less prevalent than in larger cities — particularly without the strong presence of gangs — illegal drug traffic is a problem in all communities, regardless of size or economic strata.
“In a community of any size, there will always be a certain percentage of people with addiction problems,” he said. “There’s also a certain percentage of people thriving from the economic profits of illegal drugs. That’s a big concern for us, and there’s still another percentage of people who are addicted to drugs and dealing them to support their (drug) habit. We’ve seen examples of all of those today.”
Although the large bulk of arrests Friday were made at residences, OBN officers also went to defendants’ workplaces and even a local school to make arrests.
“These (arrests) are all solid cases — buys were made and they’re on video tape, plus, most of them were multiple (drug) buys,” Woodward said. “Oftentimes, when we’re working to gather evidence, our list of defendants can quickly snowball, as the person we’re working will tell us about someone they know who can sell us drugs or someone who can sell them drugs, and here we are, three months later, with 42 arrest warrants we’re going out on.
“Those people who think they won’t get noticed because they’re casual (drug) users or sellers need to think again — they’re as big a target to us and the local law officers as the kingpins we go after,” he said. “They need to bear that in mind the next time they think about selling or buying (illegal) drugs.”
“This is an important step in the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics’ efforts to assist in the restoration of communities across Oklahoma,” Weaver said. “We first augment our undercover agents with local law enforcement officers to secure cases on numerous drug violators in covert operations, but the Bureau doesn’t stop there. We will be conducting a town hall meeting in which we’ll bring community leaders, faith-based groups, intervention groups and educators together to co-op resources to strengthen the community.
“The (town hall) meetings will serve as a public forum to further discuss drug enforcement, prevention and treatment issues within a community and its schools,” he said. “The drug problems in Claremore, in fact, in Oklahoma, aren’t just about law enforcement and education — those are elements of it — but it’s about a community taking responsibility at every level, asking themselves ‘What can we do?’ in addressing the problem of illegal drugs in a community.”
But as far as Brown is concerned, he has one message he wants to communicate about drugs in Claremore:
“If you are a drug user, or you sell drugs or you purchase drugs in the City of Claremore or the surrounding Rogers County area, the person you buy from or sell to may be a law enforcement officer,” Brown said. “The person you participate in illicit activities with may be willing to inform us about you. If you do the crime, sooner or later, you will do the time.”
OBN’s “Town Meeting on Substance Abuse” in Claremore is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26 at the Claremore Community Center.
Contact Tom Fink
Agents promise more to come