By IVY HERRON
On Thursday, the largest drug investigation and drug sweep in Clay County since the mid-1990s was targeted at removing the most drug dealers selling crystal methamphetamine from the community in a safe and efficient manner. Twenty-one suspects were arrested and booked into the Clay County Justice Center in less than three hours without incident.
"Most of them were just in shock and awe by what was happening," Jail Commander Robert Judd told The Brazil Times Friday afternoon.
Rousted out of bed in the early morning hours, the new inmates at the Clay County Justice Center are finding life a little different in cellblocks B and C.
"We've had no major problems with them," Judd said about the additional nine male and 12 female inmates at the facility.
They now have a set time to wake up, a set time to eat and now have to clean up after themselves.
"We're just educating them about the new policies for the new jail," he said.
The new facility, built to hold more prisoners and ease overcrowding, was not a factor in the scheduling of the drug raid.
"(The drug sweep) would have happened regardless of what was happening with the new jail," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton said during a break from processing drugs recovered from Thursday's raids. "It was going to happen no matter what. But if we were still using the old jail, we'd have made do with what was at hand and shipped the excess inmates out."
There are more than the 36 live marijuana plants originally reported, officials said. The exact weight or street value for the amount discovered during the raids has not yet been determined.
Crystal methamphetamine, the drug searched for during the raid, is different than the "home cooked" methamphetamine made locally using the red phosphorus from match tips and other commonly available ingredients.
Officials confirm the type discovered during the raids is a higher grade of drug which is more pure and has been connected to methamphetamine supplied from Mexico.
Detective Sgt. Rob Gambill told The Brazil Times the street value of this type of drug depends upon the amount of cutting agent used to dilute it. A common cutting agent is a horse vitamin used because it looks similar to methamphetamine.
At one location during the raids, the quality of crystal methamphetamine had a street value of $100 per gram, the equivalent of one-eighth of an ounce. Officers found a little more than 13.2 grams of the drug, with a possible street value of $1,320, in the possession of two suspects.
The location was close to North Clay Middle School, but not close enough to to add the charge of dealing within 1,000 feet of a school to the suspects.
At least three locations raided were within the 1,000 feet of schools, two others are still under review by officials to see if they qualify for the specific charge.
Other evidence collected from the searches during the drug sweep were expected to be completed by Friday evening.
Additional search warrants were requested by officers on the scene, and granted by judges during the raids, when specific items were discovered that matched descriptions of stolen property.
A complete listing of items recovered has not been completed at this time, but the process of returning them to their rightful owners has begun.
According to Sheriff Heaton, the classic 1956 Jaguar, which was stolen in January from a Clay County resident, was returned Friday.
"The owner, who's a real car buff, was ecstatic to have it back home in his garage," he said.
As a catalog of recovered items is created, people will be notified if an item matches their reported stolen goods.
"When items are stolen, people really need to give us a detailed description of the item, including the little personal details about the item. A unique detail, such as a chip on the corner of an item from where you dropped it, could be the one thing that identifies it, leading to its return. Not everyone is going to have something as unique as 1956 Jaguar stolen."
But the most valuable and precious of items handled by authorities during the raids were the small number of young children who were at home during the arrest of a caretaker. Although all the children were released into the custody of a family member, the harsh reality is that children are a part of the world of drugs.
"They're watching, they know what's happening around them. I've seen four-year olds that can identify what the drugs are in their house. They can tell you all about it," Sheriff Heaton said. "This is not just a problem for the police, this is everyone's problem."