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‘Centennial Sweep’ targets drug offenses

RIPLEY — Over 100 people involved with drug sales in the Jackson County area have warrants out for their arrest, earning the name “Centennial Sweep.”

For the past 11 months, Jackson County Sheriff Ross Mellinger said several agencies in the community worked together to conduct investigations regarding drug sales in the county.

The result is the largest drug sweep in the state with 113 people involved.

Other departments involved were the Ravenswood Police Department, Ripley Police Department, U.S. Marshals, West Virginia State Police, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Division of Natural Resources.

“This one really was not drug specific, it wasn’t primary heroin, or meth, that’s kind of how (this) was done in the past,” Mellinger said. “(It was) all inclusive. Right now meth, heroin and fentanyl are your big players in Jackson County.”

As of Wednesday, about 60 of those 113 people had been arrested and it is hoped that the remaining arrests will take place as soon as possible, Mellinger said.

Previously, the largest drug sweep in the state took place a few years ago with 92 people involved.

Mellinger said they set their goal for 100 but were able to surpass that.

“In a perfect world we get them out today. Basically we’re not going to sleep until the last are collected in handcuffs,” he said.

Accomplishing a drug sweep on a large scale was a challenge with COVID-19 and making sure all involved were protected. Mellinger said the agencies set up mobile stations outside to keep people out of the courthouse and sheriff’s department.

“They were arraigned outside, everybody was masked. We weren’t going to get rid of the operation because of COVID,” he said. “I think we did an outstanding job of keeping everybody safe.”

The smaller population of Jackson County was an advantage in the situation.

“That’s the beauty of living in a smaller county, you can put the pieces of the puzzle together. That’s a lot easier when you have a small venue,” Mellinger said.

A majority of the 113 people involved in drug sales and trade are connected, Mellinger said. Some of them were locals but others came into the county for the purpose of drug sales.

In order to move forward with helping the drug problem in the county, Mellinger said all involved need to work together and do what they do best to get people help who need it.

“For those who have the ability to get clean, I commend them. Everybody has to do their job. What we have to do now is challenge the counts, recovery program and challenge all of those people to re-dedicate and recourse those visions to match ours and then we can start making traction with this thing,” Mellinger said.

Candice Black can be reached at cblack@newsandsentinel.com.

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