04/04/10 — Sheriff's narcotics officers honored by DEA

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Sheriff's narcotics officers honored by DEA

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on April 4, 2010 1:50 AM

The three men who run the Wayne County Sheriff's Office narcotics operations have received commendations from the top national drug enforcement agency.

Sheriff's Lt. Chris Worth, Sgt. Mike Cox and Sheriff's Sgt. J. Brian Dawson all received commendations from Raleigh DEA resident in charge Donald W. Hansen, and will be awarded ceremonially at an upcoming event.

The commendation was not specific about what accomplishments led to the award, but Worth, Dawson and Detective Sgt. Matt Miller, who were available for interviews, think that the agency's role in "Operation Northern Star" was the driving factor.

In that multi-month investigation, a number of people were charged with transporting as much as 20 to 30 kilograms of cocaine per month through a specialty store in Newton Grove.

Dawson said he could not speak in specifics about the local drug trade, but was explicit about the overarching problems that lead to drug trafficking.

"I can tell you that right now, a majority of the drugs coming into eastern North Carolina and Wayne County are predominantly being supplied by the Hispanic cartel members out of Mexico.

"It comes from there, it comes in on the wholesale, and sometimes it's redistributed to retail dealers locally, (some of whom) buy directly from the ... cartel members."

Dawson has that extensive knowledge partly because of his membership on the Drug Enforcement Agency Task Force.

Miller also has a federal connection, working with the Safe Streets task force that targets gang activity and coordinates with federal courts and prosecutors.

Dawson said that Mexico has not always been the source of illegal drugs.

"You know, years ago, Miami and New York, the 95 corridor was the hot area," the sergeant said.

"But as the U.S. government put so much pressure on the Colombians bringing the cocaine in on the vessels into Miami, they came up with a solution."

The "solution" for the drug traffickers was to move their product directly into Mexico, where a large shared border could be used to move the illicit narcotics into the United States, the sergeant said.

The drugs were also sold to Mexican citizens, Dawson said.

"They are able to smuggle it into Mexico easier," the sergeant said. "They were making their profit without having to get it over here on the vessels, and they weren't losing as much cocaine."

The desert-like expanses between the United States and Mexico are difficult to patrol, if not impossible, making drug smuggling rampant, the sergeant said.

"Basically, with the borders being so vast, it's a whole lot easier for the Mexican cartels to get the drugs over the (U.S. border)," the sergeant said.

But the evolution of drug trafficking is not without its casualties, as narcotics agents in multiple countries continue to assail the points of entry for illegal drugs.

"There's a lot of violence on the borders right now, especially in the southwest border of Texas," Dawson said.

Although such direct violence is far away, its ripples are still felt in Wayne County, the sergeant said.

"It does create issues for us," Dawson said. "Ultimately, you've got people over in Mexico that are wanting to get away from that violence, and they are entering the United States illegally.

"These cartels, that's what they do -- they get people to work for them, and they put them in specific places throughout the United States, in these rural counties ... and they'll distribute their wholesale quantities of drugs that come down the border."

Despite their highly dangerous trade, Hispanic cartel members rarely show violence towards police, Miller said.

"I've been doing this since 1999," Miller said. "I mean, we've definitely taken a lot of assault rifles off of Hispanics during our drug searches and things, but I've never come across any who were violent."

There may be a specific reason for that, the Safe Streets Task Force member said.

"Most of them (Hispanic cartel members and gang members) have a pact, that they won't (harm police)," Miller said.

Often, the cartel members become victims of violence themselves as word of their illicit dealings spreads through Wayne County's drug subculture, Miller said.

"We've got people here who are robbing (the cartel members), because they know they have the (drugs) and money," Miller said.

Overall, Worth, who oversees the Sheriff's Office drug operations, said that drug law enforcement is important to citizen safety, both directly and indirectly.

"I would say 90 percent of the crime, in one way or another, is related to drugs," Worth said.