Times Leader Exclusive
MARTINS FERRY - I went on the ride of a lifetime Friday.
It was one that potentially placed me in harm's way, but one that triggered excitement and anticipation, rather than fear or trepidation.
T-L Photo/BUBBA KAPRAL
AN ARMY of law enforcement agencies took part in a massive Belmont County drug sweep Thursday and Friday. Pictured are several Operation Shield personnel mapping plans for the cooperative effort at the Martins Ferry Rec Center. See related column on page A5.
What was to fear?
I was amongst a sea of Belmont County's finest - an army of law enforcement personnel.
It started when Martins Ferry Police Chief John McFarland asked Tuesday if I was up for taking a cruiser ride. The former Martins Ferry High football star, however, was tight-lipped about the mission. He just said it was "big."
I have total trust, faith and respect in "Mac", so after a day of reflection, I bought in.
Having previously been in a police cruiser under less than flattering circumstances, I thought it would be exciting to ride shotgun in something of major police proportions, although I was still clueless to what it may be.
Mac was right, it was big: The second day of a massive Belmont County drug sweep. He said planning for Operation Shield began a month and a half ago.
I was pumped when I found out the assignment. I am as anti-drugger as they come.
The first day of the Belmont County Drug Blitz was a huge success, netting a host of drug-related arrests in all parts of the county. The preparation and teamwork by the police agencies were the key ingredients to a bountiful bust.
In this world of social media, the word quickly filters out through the drug world, resulting in many of the crooks staying underground. Thus, day two is often times lower in busts.
Such was the case Friday, but it was still a busy day, nonetheless, for my police shield - Martins Ferry Officer Chad Kuhn and his partner, Ecko the K-9 officer, just months on duty in the Purple City.
A day previously, Kuhn and Ecko had a nice heroin bust among several other arrests. Friday, he never landed a major bust, but he was involved with some 20 stops during the day, mostly in Ferry, save an occasional foray into Bridgeport and up on U.S. 250.
During one break, we ventured up to the Ferry schools' bus garage, where Kuhn had Ecko show off his drug-sniffing prowess. On three different occasions, Kuhn hid just a trace of residue from illegal drugs in various places on the school bus. Ecko nailed it every time.
Due to the sensitivity of the operation, I am not at liberty to reveal many of the inner-workings of the undertaking, as the groundwork has been laid for more arrests.
The two-day sting, however, was both an immediate success and one that provides the infrastructure for a spike in local drug arrests. The cooperation and interaction between local departments over the course of those two days will prove invaluable in forging a lethal component of the Belmont County Task Force, which McFarland heads up.
The St. Clairsville Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, under the direction of Commander Jeff LaRoche, was a major player in the sting.
"This is a collective effort of a lot of agencies. We even had the West Virginia State Police helping on Thursday," LaRoche noted. "Martins Ferry contributed 12 officers to the mission. Thursday we experienced a lot of activity and, as expected today (Friday), the drug element tends to shut it down.
"It is a good joint effort by all the agencies. Having so many K-9 officers and an airplane involved helps to take it to another level," he continued. "We recovered heroin, crack and even a stolen motorcycle. Events like this will spawn more combined efforts."