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Thu, Oct. 17

County task forces snare more than $9 million in drugs

PRESCOTT ­ Two task forces dedicated to combating illegal drug activity in the county netted more than $9 million in drug seizures during 2005.

Of that amount, the Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking (PANT) confiscated $526,860 worth of drugs including seven pounds of methamphetamine, 52.5 pounds of marijuana, 13.25 ounces of cocaine and 2.5 ounces of heroin.

A marijuana crop that the Special Crimes Section (SCS) of the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office discovered resulted in the seizure of 3,000 plants worth about $3 million. For the entire year, the SCS confiscated 8,464.5 pounds of marijuana, 297.74 grams of meth, 14.6 grams of cocaine and .3 grams of heroin. The office estimated the total street value of those drugs at $8.5 million.

Assessing the work that the PANT team of eight did as fabulous, Sgt. Bill Fessler said it seized "a pretty substantial yield for the year."

"Our focus are drug dealers and 49.7 percent of all our arrests that we made were the people that were charged for drug dealing," Fessler said. "We did an outstanding job for the resources that we've had."

Although meth and marijuana remain the most prevalent drugs on the streets, heroin and cocaine are coming back, he said.

"We did seize about 2.5 ounces of heroin, which is outstanding," he said.

A gram of meth costs about $100 whereas an equal amount of heroin would be $250, Fessler said.

Fessler said that his squad is confiscating only a fraction of the meth that is available on the streets.

"If you look at the amount of methamphetamine that we seized, that is probably going to top anywhere in the state in a rural area," Fessler said. "We took out a tremendous amount of methamphetamine. It was almost a $315,000 street value."

The prevalence of meth labs is insignificant because much of the meth comes from across the Mexican border, Fessler noted.

In addition to the group's arrests of 49 people on charges of dangerous drugs for sale, PANT arrested seven people on charges of marijuana for sale, 16 on charges of transportation of dangerous drugs for sale and 16 on charges of transportation of narcotics for sale.

"Most of the people that we are dealing with are specific to one drug," Fessler noted.

Lt. James Jarrell, who oversees the work of the SCS team, said the team did a phenomenal job.

"They by far have exceeded my expectations," he said.

Jarrell said the team could work all the time and still be unable to adequately investigate all the drug cases reported to the agency.

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