Four days in and law enforcement officers in Clinton City and Sampson County are still executing search warrants, taking people into custody and, in some cases, seizing drugs and weapons.
It continues to be, Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said, a hugely successful campaign whose end result could likely mean putting some repeat offenders behind bars for extended stays.
“It's going very well,” Thornton said Thursday. “We've got them all nervous, very nervous.”
Police Chief Jay Tilley was just as pleased with the city's operation, which began simultaneously with the county's on Monday, with many of the same suspects snared in both wide nets.
"This type of effort underscores what citizens of Clinton expect from law enforcement: to keep the community and neighborhoods safe," Tilley stressed.
In the city, the Neighborhood Improvement Team is leading the charge, with half of the total 30 suspects targeted now in custody, the police chief said. Those 30 individuals are facing a combined 114 offenses.
"We are continuing to search for the remaining suspects," Tilley stressed, noting again how successful he believed the campaign has been.
In addition to rounding up suspected drug dealers, many of believed to be what Thornton called higher-level dealers, the sheriff stressed the safety of the campaign. “Nobody has been hurt and safety, both for our officers and those we're arresting, hasn't been compromised or put in jeopardy.”
Dubbed Operation Double Tap by agents, the campaign has Sampson's Special Investigation Division agents combing the county — and, at times, making arrests in the city of Clinton — for the over 100 individuals caught up in undercover operations that began about a year ago.
Those undercover operations, Thornton stressed, were a direct result of information provided by concerned citizens.
“We're just glad we've gotten the calls we have in the past from people who really care about what happens in their community. This week, all that information is paying dividends.”
While Thornton acknowledged that not every tip turned into an arrest for Operation Double Tap, he stressed that it did not mean those individuals weren't on law enforcement radar. “I'm just asking folks who've been good about calling to be patient. If we didn't make an arrest this time, it likely will be forthcoming. We only have so much manpower and it takes time to put these cases together.
“People have to realize we have an epidemic on our hands. The magnitude of this campaign alone should tell everyone just how bad the drug culture is in our county.”
That's why, the sheriff said, campaigns such as Double Tap were important. “It certainly sends a message that we are going to be on top of our game, that residents are going to be watching in their communities. We will not let up. When you do that, the dividends become obvious.”
Reiterating what he had said earlier in the week, the sheriff pointed out that a number of individuals targeted in this latest campaign were repeat offenders, many with violent criminal histories.
These latest arrests, he said, would hopefully mean, if convicted, many of those taken into custody will go away for a long period of time.
“Some may already be out on bond, but we are hoping when they go to trial, they'll be sent away.”
Unfortunately, Thornton said, many repeat offenders also know the system and work to get around it. “They know the system better than any of us know it or could hope to know it. In fact, that is why we have the problems we have now. The system, unfortunately, trains them. That's not an indictment of the system, it's just a fact of life.
And those facts all add up to the reality that law enforcement must continue to battle day in and day out in the war against drugs.
“You deal with the problems and you keep plugging away at it so it doesn't get out of hand,” Thornton said.
Double Tap, and campaigns like it, he said, is one way of dealing with that problem.
Three more residents were arrested in that undercover campaign throughout the day on Wednesday, with more expected to be taken into custody Thursday and Thursday night.
Taken into custody Wednesday in either city or county operations were:
• Marcus Jerome Smith, 43, 911 Barden St., Clinton, 4 counts possession of heroin with intent to sell and deliver; 4 counts sell and deliver heroin; 3 counts maintaining a dwelling for purpose of selling controlled substances; 1 count of selling controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school. Bond $200,000.
• Shearon Arkar Wilson, 37, 20 Sunshine Lane, Clinton, 2 counts possession with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver marijuana; 2 counts sell marijuana; 2 counts deliver marijuana; 1 count each of maintaining a dwelling for the sale of a controlled substance; sell heroin; deliver heroin; maintain, sell, deliver and possession a controlled substance with 1,000 feet of a school. Bond $50,000. Officers seized 3.10 grams of marijuana at the time of his arrest. City police charged him with these additional offenses: 1 count sell and delivery of heroin; 1 count sell and delivery of marijuana; 1 count possession of heroin with intent to sell and deliver; 1 count possession of marijuana with intent to sell and deliver. Bond $20,000 for those charges.
• Marshall Leonard Pope, 26, 414 Wrye Branch Road, Clinton, 1 count conspire to sell methamphetamine; 1 count conspire to deliver meth; 2 counts possession with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver meth; 2 counts sell meth; 2 counts deliver meth; 1 count manufacture meth. Bond $112,500.
• Johnny L. Wilson, 31, 35 Dogwood Acres Lane, Clinton, 1 count each possession with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver cocaine; sell cocaine; deliver cocaine; manufacture, sell, deliver and possess a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a park; manufacture, sell, deliver and possess a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school.
• Tina Lynn Pace-Bullard, 42, 196 Patches Lane, Roseboro, 8 counts trafficking in opium or heroin; 2 counts conspire to traffic in opium or heroin; 1 count possession with intent to sell or deliver cocaine; 2 counts dispense medication without a license; 2 counts possession with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver Schedule II controlled substance; 1 count conspiracy to traffic opium or heroin. No bond listed.
• Hubert Donnell Williams Jr., 28, 303 West Still St., 1 count sell and deliver marijuana; 1 count possession marijuana with intent to sell and deliver; 1 count maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of selling controlled substances. No bond was available.
(Editor Sherry Matthews can be reached at 910-249-4612. Follow her on Twitter @sieditor1960; follow the paper @SampsonInd.)