Officials: Drug raids not finished

PARKERSBURG – Thursday’s drug raids and subsequent arrests in Parkersburg led law enforcement officers to the largest cache of heroin uncovered in the area in decades, officials said.

Thursday around 1 p.m., more than 20 officers from five law enforcement agencies began arrest operations in Parkersburg on a Chicago, Ill./Marion, Ohio-based drug distribution organization, officials said.

Investigators from the Aggressive Crime Enforcement Task Force (ACE) and the Parkersburg Narcotics Task Force (PNTF), supported by canine officers from the Parkersburg Police Department and the Wood County Sheriff’s Office, combined to take out a Chicago-Ohio-Parkersburg drug ring, officials said.

Wood County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Shawn Graham said the raid and five arrests are only part of the operation. Additional arrests will be forthcoming, as well as federal charges for those involved.

“There’s a new element that has moved in,” said Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin. He said the new group is an “organized, dangerous criminal element” dealing in guns, drugs and stolen vehicles.

“They haven’t been here very long and we don’t want them to stay,” Martin said.

Law enforcement officials anticipate more arrests and federal charges stemming from Thursday’s raids.

“It’s ongoing,” Graham said.

Martin said the federal charges will send a message to dealers not to come back.

Five people were arrested Thursday at various locations in Parkersburg on drug charges. Investigators continue to look for Keith Irons of Parkersburg, who has two active felony warrants for delivery of a controlled substance after allegedly twice selling heroin to an investigator in October.

Police recovered 156 grams of heroin during Thursday’s operation in Parkersburg, the largest such recovery either Graham or Martin has seen in their careers. As a result Graham said officers removed a significant amount of drugs off the street.

“I expect to see a lot of people getting pretty sick soon,” Martin said referring to the withdrawal.

Officers also recovered more than 100 grams of cocaine.

This year law enforcement officials have seen a rise in heroin use in the area, that led to several deaths related to overdoses. Earlier this week Wood County law enforcement officials told state lawmakers they have seized 30 meth labs this year – more than any time in recent years.

Martin said meth has exploded in this area because of one-pot cooks.

“You don’t need to be a chemist,” he said. “Anyone can cook it in a pop bottle.”

“It’s so mobile,” Graham said.

Martin said the rise in heroin use in the area is attributed to prescription pill abuse. Martin and Graham said heroin is cheaper than prescription pills.

On the street a tenth of a gram of heroin cost $40-$50. Prescription pills that produce the same type of high costs about $70.

Martin and Graham also credited local government for expending resources to make these operations possible.

Martin said the city’s mayor and council identified the problem and are providing police with the funding to battle drug trafficking.

Graham said Wood County Sheriff Ken Merritt is giving him the freedom to direct resources to fight drugs.

Official also credited the cooperation among agencies for the recent work into disrupting drug trafficking in the area. State and local law enforcement agencies from West Virginia and Ohio and other parts of the country, including the FBI, have worked together.

“They have a gang. We have a gang,” Graham said.