OHP increase drug and criminal interdictions for year 2000

Oklahoma Highway Patrol reports a significant increase in the confiscation of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines for a total of just over $20 million in street value seized by troopers last year.

"The total pounds of seized drugs increased dramatically last year and we attribute this success to an increase in the number of troopers assigned to our Special Operations division, and the specialized training they receive," said Trooper Pete Norwood. "The troopers in this division were accountable for 166 of the 426 felony drug and criminal interdictions."

Last year, troopers seized 14,778 pounds of marijuana compared to 9,182 in 1999. They confiscated 485 pounds of cocaine, an increase from 331, and they more than doubled the pounds of methamphetamines from 54 to 128.

"It won't be long until we see construction begin on a new facility to store the evidence," said Norwood. "Previously, the drugs we seized were held in evidence storage at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. They can no longer accommodate our increase in confiscated drugs so we are building our own facility."

In addition, Department of Public Safety officials have begun building a new facility to serve as headquarters for office personnel of the Special Operations division.

"This division has grown from two troopers in 1995 to a current force of 18," said Norwood. "Each of these troopers receives many hours of drug and criminal interdiction training, and it has really paid off by curbing the flow of drug traffic through Oklahoma."

Even the drug canines receive special training. In March 2000, all 10 achieved certification through the National Narcotic Detector Dog Association.

"They are required to pass a drug-detection test before they receive national certification," said Norwood. "The dogs are also certified through Oklahoma's rigorous Certified Law Enforcement Education Training program."

Several large drug and cash seizures were made last year. In May 2000, a vehicle search yielded 2,000 pounds of marijuana - the largest in 2000. In October, a trooper confiscated 85 pounds of cocaine and on another contact, troopers discovered a vehicle transporting 20 illegal immigrants.

Of the 426 total drug interdictions performed by troopers, $2,163,854.87 in cash was seized and 431 weapons were confiscated.

"It's always a plus to take money from drug dealers and traffickers, but we would much rather have the drugs," said Norwood. "At least by confiscating cash, we are putting a dent in crime and that's our intent.

"These troopers are also trained in the area of criminal interdiction," said Norwood. "In the special operations division alone, troopers captured 37 wanted persons, 38 stolen vehicles and 15 additional cases involving stolen articles."

Troopers confiscated 1,600 pounds of marijuana in early January this year and expect another successful year in taking drugs out of Oklahoma, Norwood said.