FOX10 News is getting exclusive access to the Mobile County Special Ops Unit and their efforts to combat drug trafficking in our area.
Over the years, law enforcement officials said drug pushers and traffickers have developed more creative and bizarre ways to push illegal goods. The criminal interdiction task force is on hand to put a dent in their large-scale operations, specifically cocaine, spice and marijuana tied to national gang activity.
“It’s a plague on society,” said Sgt. Jeff Eiland with the Special Ops Unit. “Drugs equal crime. You’ve got folks robbing and stealing to support their drug habits. We like to think we make a difference and we hope we do. As long as I keep that in mind I’ll be happy with it.”
Mobile, along with members of the Baldwin County Sheriffs Office and Daphne Police Department, from south Alabama’s criminal interdiction unit.
It’s the same team that made a nearly $1.5 million cash seizure in September, which officials say has not been legitimately claimed and is being investigated by federal authorities. Baldwin County’s team also made a pair of drug trafficking busts just last week.
FOX10 News Reporter Andrew Perez spent several days with the crew to learn how they are able to find and remove drugs and drug money off the street. Law enforcement officials say it’s all about training, and more importantly, attention to detail.
“The trends are constantly changing so you never know what your going to find? Everyday is different,” said Eiland.
Deputies said significant quantities of marijuana, cocaine, spice, and pills are what they find most often heading east on the I10 corridor from Mexico toward east coast cities.
Illegal cash busts are more often made in cars headed west, back to Mexico.
Investigators said they usually see three different types of drug pushers; those who make ‘suicide runs’ with no efforts to hide illegal items, those who go to great lengths to avoid detection and those who are unaware of what they are transporting.
Law enforcement along the interstates and highways look for key indicators and behavioral cues only after a legitimate traffic stop is made.
Officials said they need probable cause to search a vehicle, i.e a drug or weapons dog making a hit outside the vehicle, a driver’s impairment, or something illegal that is visible from outside the car.
More often than not, deputies are given consent to search a vehicle.
During one search in December, officials found numerous illegal firearms headed for Mexico.
“We picked the seat up. They can tell it had been tampered with back here and they cut this piece out and added a way to screw and secure it,” said Eiland.
Crews have found pickup trucks with false beds filed with drugs and even a “trap” compartment built into the backseat of a car. The trap was only accessible through a series of buttons on the front panel of the vehicle and had been filled with cash.
Deputies said the driver was picked up for embezzlement.
In 2012, Mobile’s side of the interdiction unit made the following busts:
256 warrant arrests
5 stolen cars
27 illegal aliens detained
More than $430,000 worth of drugs found
60 drug arrests
72 Weapons or other arrests (paraphernalia, domestic, etc….)
2,161 vehicles stopped on the interstate
283 vehicles searched
The federal government provides grants to fund extra interdiction operations.
Any illegal cash or vehicles seized and processed are split between the agencies with a 20% cut for US Marshals, according the Mobile’s Special Ops Unit. The money must be allocated to certain funds for law enforcement operations and functions.
The Special Ops unit continuously takes classes to stay up to date with the latest drug trends and works alongside customs enforcement along I65 and I10.
Deputies said they don’t expect the war on drugs will ever really end however they intend to keep fighting in an effort to drive down crime.
“I would said that sooner or later you are going to get caught. Greed does set in and we will catch you,” said Lt. Richard Cayton.