Although they didn’t seize the large quantity of drugs they had hoped to, law enforcement officers sent a strong message to potential drug traffickers Friday night — We can do this anytime, anywhere.
This was an operation to intercept a large amount of narcotics that the Arkansas State Police had received information about, and was expected to enter the Redfield area in Northern Jefferson County during the first week of the month.
Officers from multiple agencies, including the state police, Arkansas Highway Police, Redfield and White Hall Police Departments, agents from the DEA, Jefferson and Pulaski County Sheriff’s deputies and Pine Bluff Police Vice and Narcotics detectives all mobilized, specifically targeting Northern Jefferson and Southern Pulaski Counties. The Arkansas Department of Corrections sent two canine units and four handlers to assist, with the dogs on standby if suspected drugs were found in a vehicle.
“We won’t be able to stop it all but maybe we can put a heck of a dent in it,” State Police Criminal Investigations Sgt. Kenneth Whitmore said during a mass briefing for the almost 50 officers involved in the operation.
The targeted areas were selected because Redfield Police Chief Steve McFatridge has been dealing with a number of stolen vehicles, mostly Honda Accords, that were stolen in the Little Rock area and recovered in Redfield.
McFatridge said Friday night his department has recovered 10 stolen vehicles and made eight arrests, and many of the suspects involved had connections to drug trafficking, specifically methamphetamine.
While some of that methamphetamine has appeared in Redfield, it has also been found in Pine Bluff, Little Rock and in Grant County.
To accomplish the task of trying to intercept the possible drugs, two sobriety checkpoints were established, the first just north of Redfield on Arkansas Highway 365, the second at the entrance and exit ramp of Interstate 530 at Redfield.
Pulaski County Sheriff’s deputies set up in the Hensley area on Arkansas 365 to augment the search area, which also included attention being paid to Arkansas Highway 46 leading into Grant County.
“We’re going to have zero tolerance,” State Police Special Agent Oscar Bullard said Friday night during the briefing. “We want you to make contact with people and find out who is out there rolling around. We’re going to hit Highway 365 hard all the way from Hensley to the Pine Bluff city limits.”
Melinda Elliott, Operations Manager for MECA (Metropolitan Emergency Communications Association) assigned two dispatchers whose only job was to monitor the radio traffic, and provide officers with drivers and vehicles license information, and to run warrant checks on those people stopped.
While uniformed troopers and Arkansas Highway Police officers manned the checkpoints, undercover narcotics officers patrolled the highways in unmarked cars, also looking for suspected drug trafficking.
At the checkpoint north of Redfield, a man being sought on multiple hot check warrants was arrested shortly after the checkpoint was established at 10 p.m., and was taken to the Redfield Police Department where the processing and booking procedures for people arrested was being conducted.
After about 30 minutes, the checkpoint was moved when it became apparent that a lot of northbound traffic was turning off the highway after seeing blue lights from multiple police vehicles on both sides of the road.
The checkpoint was moved south inside the Redfield city limits and things began to heat up quickly, with cars lined up east and west for a couple of blocks while the unformed officers checked drivers licenses, vehicle registrations and insurance information, looked for any signs of impairment, and checked for outstanding warrants.
Several vehicles were pulled out of line after an initial contact with the officers, who were also looking for equipment violations such as defective headlights and tail lights, and citations were issued for those violations, as well as for license violations.
The first call for a dog came just after 11 p.m. when Redfield Police Sgt. Donald Tucker saw a vehicle turn off the highway onto a side street about a block from the checkpoint.
Tucker gave chase, and after a few minutes, ask for a canine unit to assist him. A small quantity of marijuana was reportedly found in that vehicle.
On Saturday, Bullard said officers made three drug arrests during the operation, all for possession of marijuana.
There were 10 total arrests, including four for DWI, one for simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, and officers served a total of 20 warrants from Pine Bluff, Little Rock and Sherwood.
Officers recorded a total of 68 officer-violator contacts during the operation, which was called off at midnight.
“We made a lot of contacts and presented a positive image for the people in Redfield and Northern Jefferson County,” Bullard said. “When we debriefed after the operation, there was a lot of excitement from all the agencies involved and they all want to do this again.
“If people are going to keep selling drugs, we’re going to keep after them until they decide not to sell drugs anymore,” Bullard said. “Overall it was a good effort by everybody.”