Archived Story

Drug bust nets 126 arrests

Published 8:28am Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A joint effort between several law enforcement agencies led to the arrests of 126 people throughout the day Monday, marking the largest drug raid in Franklin County history.

The arrests all stem from indictments of drug-related cases that have been presented to recent Franklin County grand juries.

Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett and Franklin County Sheriff Shannon Oliver said this raid, which has been deemed “Operation Spring Clean,” has been eight months in the making.

“We first started working together on these drug cases in July 2011,” Hargett said. “Shannon and I have been talking ever since he became sheriff of having a drug task force so we could really knock a dent in the number of drug cases we’re seeing in the area.”

Oliver said over 80 law enforcement officers from several federal, state and county agencies gathered at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office for a pre-dawn briefing on Monday.

“After the briefing, we split into nine different teams that were each given a predetermined number of indictment warrants in the same geographical area,” Hargett added. “We left the sheriff’s office at 3:30 a.m. and went out into the county and started picking people up, which we continued to do throughout the day Monday.”

Oliver said transport vans picked up those who were arrested and took them to the Franklin County Jail where they were booked and detained until bonds were set on Monday and Tuesday.

Hargett said there were still cases that were under investigation.

According to Oliver, the Franklin County Drug Unit along with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the Russellville Police Department, with assistance from the Red Bay Police Department, have been investigating and compiling cases for months to presentto the grand jury and have a wide-spread pick-up with many arrests.

“Something like this really makes a big impact and sends the statement that we’re serious about getting our county cleaned up,” Oliver said.

“We have done drug raids in the past and it really seems to leave an impression on the community,” Hargett agreed. “People sometimes wonder what we spend our time doing because we can’t let people know that we’re planning something big like this and that it takes months of investigating and planning to pull it off.

“In my 21 years of law enforcement, I don’t ever remember a raid this big. It’s a great morale boost to our men to see the months of hard work and investigating finally paying off.”

Oliver said the success of Operation Spring Clean proves that the Franklin County Drug Unit is effective and will continue to investigate and arrest people who participate in drug-related activity in the area.

“This is a never-ending cycle,” Oliver said. “There will always be someone to take the place of those who have been arrested and taken off the streets, but our goal is to stop the drug activity as much as possible and this was a big step toward that goal.”

Agencies that assisted with Operation Spring Clean included the federal agencies of the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Marshals and the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the state agencies of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Game and Fish Division and the Marine Police Division; and the local agencies of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Russellville Police Department, Red Bay Police Department, Phil Campbell Police Department, Hodges Police Department, Marion County Drug Task Force and the Florence Police Department.

Capt. Mark Swindle, who serves as the jail administrator, said the staff at the Franklin County Jail was also to be commended for booking in all the arrestees in a quick and efficient manner.

“This was a huge undertaking and many of the staff worked overtime to make sure everything was taken care of and they did a great job,” Swindle said. “We’re also appreciative of Circuit Judge Terry Dempsey for taking the time to come to the jail to set the bonds to accommodate the large number of people arrested in order to expedite the process. That really helped us out.”

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