"If we have this many cases a year or a month from now, we will do this again," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton told The Brazil Times after the Aug. 5, 2008 drug sweep which ultimately netted more than 40 suspects and had ties stemming back to another investigation and drug sweep in April 2006. "If you bury your head and think it's not happening, you're wrong. By no means are we done investigating drugs in this community. This is an ongoing investigation."
Since then, the Clay County Sheriff's Department has continued to investigate the manufacture, abuse and distribution of illegal drugs, along with various other ancillary crimes associated with drug abuse and sales in Clay County.
"As long as there are crimes related to drug activity, our investigations won't stop," Heaton said during a recent telephone interview.
Earlier Monday morning, members of CCSD, Indiana State Police and the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force along with law enforcement officials in Vigo and Owen counties hit the streets again around 6 a.m., to serve nine arrest warrants against suspects from the drug investigation that started more than a year ago.
Seven suspects were taken into custody Monday, while officials continued Tuesday to look for the remaining two.
Three suspects wanted for unrelated arrest warrants were also taken into custody Monday by participating law enforcement officers involved in the warrant sweep.
However, Heaton and Chief Deputy Rob Gambill told The Brazil Times that's not entirely an accurate number of arrests. During the year-long drug investigation, they confirmed more than 21 other suspects were arrested for more than 78 drug-related offenses including marijuana cultivation, manufacturing methamphetamine, dealing methamphetamine, possession of stolen property and many other miscellaneous criminal charges.
However, Gambill said there are times when information is uncovered showing a suspect may prove to be an imminent threat to the public that changes the way an investigation proceeds.
"When that occurs, our ongoing investigation into that suspect and their associates is sacrificed and an immediate arrest is made," Gambill said. "This scenario played itself out a few times during the course of this investigation, and early arrests were frequent."
According to law enforcement officials, as quickly as they catch one person involved in the drug culture, another eagerly takes their place. Investigating leads and creating the framework of a solid drug case with the potential of a conviction is a lengthy, time-consuming process, but officials believe it's a worthwhile investment for the community.
"Everybody understands that it's a never-ending process, but as long as there are drugs out there we will continue to investigate. Our guys are out there investigating drug crimes, even today," Heaton said. "It's sad that law enforcement has to focus so much time and effort on drug investigations -- there's a lot of other things we'd like to focus on to help our community -- but we're not stopping. This is our job, and we're going to keep doing it."
Recent drug raids
During the past three years, law enforcement officials have been waging war on drugs in Clay County and kept jail officials busy at the Clay County Justice Center.
* On April 20, 2006, 21 suspects were initially arrested; with three more arrested the following weekend, during the drug sweep by more than 10 local, state and federal agencies.
* On Aug. 5, 2008, 40 suspects were arrested during the drug sweep in which more than 15 local, state and federal agencies participated.
* As a result of a year-long drug investigation, on Aug. 17, 2009, officials from more than five local, state and federal agencies arrested seven of nine suspects wanted on drug-related charges. Officials confirmed 21 other arrests were made as a result of the investigation throughout the past year.