"Operation Shield" Nabs Drug Suspects On Wheels - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

"Operation Shield" Nabs Drug Suspects On Wheels

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It was an unusual drug sweep.

They didn't go to people's houses.

They simply stopped their vehicles.

And they found a lot.

"Out of the traffic stops, 15 have led to drug cases," said Chris Berhalter, Belmont County prosecutor. "Seven of those were felony drug cases. We had 18 outstanding warrants served, nine DUIs as well as 19 driving under suspension arrests. Marijuana, cocaine, crack and heroin was all seized. Over $3,000 in suspected drug money was also served."

Operation Shield was a concerted effort of the Belmont County Drug Task Force, the Belmont County Sheriff's Department, police departments from Martins Ferry, Shadyside, Bellaire, Bridgeport as well as the prosecutor's office and the Ohio State Highway Patrol, who planned the operation.

"Well, we started about a month and a half ago, conducted some meetings with all the chiefs in the area and Belmont County, and brought this proposal forward to work together," said Lt. Jeff LaRoche of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

They took two full days, Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and they learned that a glimpse into a person's car is like a glimpse into his or her life.

They found not only drugs but some other surprising things.

"The ones we served with warrants, the majority of them didn't have drivers' licenses," said Chief Mike Kovalyk of Bellaire Police.

"If the people were willing to cooperate, then we worked with them," said Chief John McFarland, chief of the Martins Ferry Police Department and leader of the Belmont County Drug Task Force. "If not, we transported them to the county jail or issued them a citation and released them."

They also received support from West Virginia authorities.

They say this area is unique in that you can pass through three states in 15 minutes.