Monday, September 19, 2011

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part LXXXVI): 8000 residents, 12 of them arrested in relation to meth

The Sept. 14, 2011 issue of the Newton County Times is chock full of law and order news. In this blog, I will focus primarily on the front-page story about "Operation Mulligan," in which "[m]ore than 60 law enforcement officers from local, state and federal agencies gathered at the Newton County Fairgrounds" on Sept. 9 to "conduct a sweep of individuals having outstanding arrest warrants on charges of manufacturing or distributing methamphetamine." Officers arrested 12 suspects--more even than they had aimed--which seems like a lot in a county with a population of only 8,311. The operation's name stems from the fact that all arrests were of repeat offenders.

The Sheriff reported that four search warrants were executed simultaneously as part of the Sept. 9 operation and that officers had hoped "to make at least 10 physical arrests." The Newton County District Judge, Tommy Martin, was on hand to oversee and sign the warrants that were executed or served. Two National Guard helicopters were used in the operation. As of the evening of Sept. 9, all of the suspects remained in custody, awaiting bond hearings.

The twelve persons arrested range in age from 47 to 18. Of initial interest to me was the fact that both the 47-year-old, Chester Gilbert, and a 46-year-old woman who was also arrested, Debra Vanderpool, were classmates of mine at Jasper School. Gilbert has been charged with "manufacturing marijuana, possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, possession of drug paraphernalia and two counts of delivery of marijuana." His list of offenses is longest among the twelve. The shortest list of offenses, I'm relieved to say, belongs to 18-year-old James Raulston, who was arrested for delivery of methamphetamine. As for 46-year-old Debra Vanderpool, she is charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, while 25-year-old Jason Vanderpool--perhaps a son or nephew of hers--was arrested for the more serious crime of manufacturing methamphetamine, as well as with three counts of delivering it, possession of fire arms, two counts of delivery marijuana, and "absconding from Drug Court." Another man, Brandon Carney, 30, of Nail, was arrested for delivery of methamphetamine. The news report notes that he was arrested while on his way to "Drug Court in Russellville."

Newton County Sheriff Keith Slape explained that Operation Mulligan was a continuation of "investigations that followed the search of property near Mt. Judea almost two years ago." Read more about that here. He indicated that county residents have also continued to provide quality information about drug manufacture in the county.

Among those participating in the operation were officers from neighboring Baxter, Boone and Marion counties, as well as officials from the 14th Judicial Drug Taskforce, Arkansas State Police troopers, Arkansas Game and Fish officers, U.S. Forest Service enforcement officers, canine teams from the Arkansas Dept. of Corrections, and agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Agencies.

This issue of the Newton County Times also reports action by the Quorum Court on matter of a new jail, but I'll save that for a future post.

In still other law and order news, the Sheriff has instituted a new Adopt-a-Car program, by which businesses in the county take financial responsibility for equipping patrol cars. The cost per car is about $1500, and the first sponsor/adopter, H & S Auto, on Highway 7 just north of the Boone County line. Apparently, the need for such sponsors has grown because the Sheriff's office has recently acquired new patrol vehicles.

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