A year-long undercover operation by the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office has led to 34 arrests and warrants for seven more suspected drug dealers who are still at large.
During the operation, undercover law enforcement agents posed as drug users and bought drugs ranging from marijuana, cocaine and heroin to various pharmaceuticals, such as pain pills.
Such undercover operations in St. Charles Parish are commonplace and are conducted by deputies with the Special Investigations Division.
St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said many of the arrests were made with the help of tips provided by the public.
“Investigations to identify and make cases on these dealers take time to do it right. I also want to personally thank the citizens who provide tips both anonymously and otherwise. This is a big help. Please keep them coming,” he said. “I personally receive lots of tips from our citizens and I appreciate their trust. We will not let them down.”
Champagne said he expects crime rates in the parish to drop off now that so many criminals caught in the sweep are off the streets.
“After we round the drug dealers up we do find a drop off in street level dealing. However, there is always someone willing to take the place of the dealers we arrest,” Champagne said. “It depends on the area of the parish as to how long the dealers reemerge. Citizen complaints usually let us know when the drug dealing is back in full force. We also usually experience a decrease in property and violent crime for weeks or months following undercover operations.”
Although the arrests and warrants were all announced at the same time, Champagne said the Sheriff’s Office did not make all of the arrests at one time to avoid overburdening the judicial system.
“What was important was running a safe and effective operation and making sure that the District Attorney’s Office and all three judges were on board and on the same page,” Champagne said. “The arrests were spaced out over a period of time. After consultation with the district attorney and judges, we thought it best to not overload the system with all of the arrests at the same time.”
While many of those arrested in the operation had previously been charged or convicted with violent crimes, there were no incidents during the arrests. However, Champagne said that the very nature of drug operations is dangerous due to the propensity for violence drug dealers are known to have shown.
“We believe that anyone who distributes narcotics on a street level has the potential to be dangerous to our undercover officer or to the general public,” he said. “Dealing drugs is a felony and jail time accompanies these crimes. This by itself can make a drug dealer dangerous. Most violent crimes in our country are a direct result of illegal narcotics trafficking.”
While this undercover operation resulted in a large number of arrests, the Sheriff’s Office has smaller undercover operations ongoing throughout the year.
Champagne said drug dealers in the parish need to realize their actions will have large repercussions if they are caught.
“We literally arrest hundreds of users and dealers annually. While most of our drug arrests are individual cases, it is also important to conduct undercover operations. It is a particularly useful way to gather information about narcotics and other criminal activity,” he said. “While we announce undercover arrests every year or so, we almost always have undercover operatives at work. Drug traffickers need to know this. We are always out there looking for them.”
For the names of those arrested, see this story at www.heraldguide.com.