- Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 November 2009 17:29
- Published on Wednesday, 25 November 2009 17:29
- Hits: 650
What started as an early morning raid executing search warrants and rounding up suspected drug dealers on Thursday morning continued through the weekend.
Preston D. Gray, 26, of Colonial Beach was arrested last Saturday in Culpepper on charges related to drug trafficking.
His seizure was not as eventful as the early morning raid of Thursday, Nov. 19 at around 5 a.m., when the Tri-County Task Force comprised of the Virginia State Police, Colonial Beach Police, Westmoreland Sheriffs Department, King George Sheriffs Office, Caroline County Sheriffs Office and NCIS (Navel Criminal Investigative Services) along with the FBI made a significant step forward in ridding the community of drug activities.
Derrick Donnell Jones, Steven Bernard Dudley, Donald Wayne Turner, Marshal C. Wilson, Davon Gaston Himes and Bonnie Henry Smith of Colonial Beach were all arrested and charged with various crimes related to drug activity and trafficking. Arlene Malave of Hague and Aaron Early Holtzolclaw of King George were also arrested for drug charges. Candice Nicole Mills of Colonial Beach was arrested under charges related to child abuse and neglect for allowing drug dealing to occur in the presence of minors.
Child Protective Services and Animal Control were called in to assist with any issues concerning minors or animals that may come up. Rescue personnel were put on standby minutes before the round up, but were given the all-clear shortly after.
The bust took place in at least 12 different locations simultaneously and more than 40 personnel comprised of swat teams and officers converged on locations throughout Westmoreland County, including Colonial Beach, and one location in King George County.
How it all begins
Citizen complaints or tips from someone arrested put police on notice to possible drug activity. If a pattern is confirmed, then an investigation is started. Investigations like the one that lead up to this week’s round up can take at least six months of preliminary work before a raid can be conducted.
“There are just so many aspects that go into investigating,” Westmoreland County Sherriff C. O. Balderson said. “Officers from the task force are all over the place but 95 percent comes from individuals calling us, which we want because that’s the heart and soul of our department. We don’t have personnel on every corner to see the activity. Intelligence gathering from the community letting us know what they see starts the investigating.”
Balderson added: “It takes a lot of foot work, man hours and a lot of intelligence gathering to make it go smoothly.”
Colonial Beach Police Chief Christopher Hawkins said, “People will mistakenly think that because they see activity of people coming and going in patterns that we see it or that we should see it.”
Hawkins explained that undercover officers can’t be on every corner all the time, but once a citizen reports the activity then officers can be alerted to the situation and start watching and investigating.
Hawkins said it is frustrating not being able to keep the public informed when a member of the community calls with a complaint of possible drug activity, then three weeks later they call back and want to know why nothing has been done.
“It’s great that they call back because a lot of times we get another piece of the puzzle, but at the same time we can’t divulge information about the investigation,” Hawkins said.
Sometimes the activity is under investigation and sometimes the people are already in custody, yet the police can’t give out information until the “round up” is complete.
“In a lot of situations we can’t tell a citizen that we’re doing something about it, we have to wait and that’s the hardest thing to do because we want to make that citizen happy right then because we know they are upset,” Hawkins said.
Balderson explained that the task force has to have enough evidence to avoid making an arrest that would later result in no charges filed and put a dealer back out on the street.
“It wouldn’t do us any good if we rushed into something, then we couldn’t prove it in court or we have it thrown out,” Balderson said. “We have been very fortunate that all previous arrests have resulted in either a guilty plea or conviction.
The vicious cycle of drugs
“The vicious cycle of performing a round up is that there are always a couple [of people who think] that now that this guy has gone to jail, I’m going to step in and do this type of work,” Hawkins said.
“My message to them and the people of Colonial Beach is that if they’re thinking about it [dealing drugs] they better think in the other direction because they may be on our next list.”
Hawkins said it just isn’t worth it because some of the recent arrestees are facing 15 to 20 year in the penitentiary if found guilty and convicted.
Hawkins said that in his experience most drug dealers don’t live the glamorous life they see portrayed on TV. Most of them have nothing to show for the little money they make. Many dealers live in motels, they don’t own homes or cars, usually they sell some dope and end up making a little money, and then they blow it on partying.
Commonwealth Attorney Dean Atkins agreed with Chief Hawkins saying, “If you sell drugs we’re going to come after you. You’re going to the penitentiary. There is no more slap on the wrist!” Atkins added, “Pack your toothbrush.”
Atkins also said that dealing is not only “not glamorous” but also dangerous to the person committing the crime and dangerous to their loved ones as well.
Atkins said all home invasions are linked to drug activity, either someone is looking for drugs, money or something to sell to buy drugs. But in some cases it’s a drug dealer looking for someone who owes them money.
In a phone interview Atkins spoke of a recent convicted drug dealer. A 22-year-old young man was arrested and sentenced to 60 years in the state penitentiary with 40 years suspended.
“He recently became a father,” Atkins said. “He will spend the next 20 years in the penitentiary and that baby will miss out on being raised by his father.”
Atkins went on to say that just before this man’s last sale, when he was found with 1,000 grams of crack cocaine, the young man had recently bought some new clothes and a few gold chains. Prior to his arrest he was robbed by another drug dealer who put a .45 caliber hand gun to his face and took his money and jewelry.
Atkins said when you sell drugs you not only put yourself at risk you put your whole family at risk.
Relatives who play dumb are putting themselves at risk from repercussions of their loved one who deal.
Hawkins said if you suspect someone close to you is dealing, a telltale sign is lots of unexplained cash; either the person isn’t employed or only works part time.
Both Balderson and Hawkins said kids in school could either be using or dealing; a decline in grades can raise a red flag. Both men advise keeping track of who your kids are hanging out with and where they are at all times.
Balderson said to look at the clothes they wear. Are they wearing expensive shoes or jeans but can’t explain where the money is coming from?
“Except for that little bit of cash flow, dealing is not what it’s hyped up to be on TV, dealers never own or have anything in life,” Hawkins said. “I strongly discourage anyone who is thinking about jumping into dealing because we don’t want to see them in the next roundup.”