Hempstead County lawmen helped battle a billion-dollar illicit business last year that, literally, has two lifelines running through the county.

Hempstead County lawmen helped battle a billion-dollar illicit business last year that, literally, has two lifelines running through the county. Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton and South Central Drug Task Force Director Robert Gentry reported today that some $1.6 million in drugs were seized in Hempstead County investigations culminating in 2012, and more than $1 billion in drugs were seized in SCDTF investigations across the seven-county region in probes culminating in 2012. Singleton admitted that the numbers were staggering. “We've still got some on-going cases from 2012 that haven't come to fruition, yet,” he noted. “We're probably leading the seven counties, unfortunately. I-30 and Highway 29 are major drug pipelines from Mexico to the northern states.” As an example of his point, Singleton noted that 9,852 grams of powder cocaine valued at $985,200 on the streets has been recovered in cases that ultimately culminated in 2012. As well, 179,900 grams of processed marijuana valued at $642,500 in street dollars were seized in such investigations, he said. County deputies, in conjunction with those same kinds of investigations, seized 188 grams of Ice (methamphetamine) valued at $18,795, 46 grams of crack cocaine valued at $4,600 and 25 marijuana plants valued at $25,000, Singleton said. “As Sheriff, one of my top priorities has been the education of our young people on the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and choices they make,” Singleton said. “Along with that is my continued commitment to aggressively pursue those people that sell, transport, distribute and manufacture drugs that fall into the hands of our citizens and children.” In connection with that effort, Singleton said the HCSO has continued its Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program throughout the county in fifth and sixth grade school rooms. “The course is designed to target that age group to advise and show how not only illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and meth can affect the body, but also how legal drugs such as prescription medications, when abused, will also impact their bodies and affect the lives of their loved ones, along with alcohol and tobacco abuse,” Singleton said. He said community response has been “great,” and additional efforts through community outreach programs have been developed during the past year to put law enforcement officers and local youth in social settings that allow for interaction to deal with peer pressure and drug abuse. Singleton credited the SCDTF with being a major asset in reducing drug crime in Hempstead, Howard, Lafayette, Little River, Nevada, Pike and Sevier counties. “The agents of the South Central Drug Task Force spent a great deal of time, effort and money to help investigate drug trafficking in and through Hempstead County,” he said. “Agents worked with Hempstead County investigators to purchase drugs, work cases and develop information for search and arrest warrants, and to present the information obtained to the Prosecuting Attorney for a successful prosecution.” HCSO investigators also continued training in the investigation of drug cases, particularly in search and seizure techniques and related law, Singleton said. As a result, 80 felony cases have been developed resulting in the arrest of 30 suspects within Hempstead County, alone, Singleton said. Gentry said the SCDTF is currently funded by federal matching grant monies, with 15 percent provided by the state and 10 percent by local jurisdictions. The unit is governed by a board of directors consisting of the county sheriffs, municipal police chiefs, and prosecuting attorneys in the three state judicial districts involved, he said. “For the year 2012, the unit opened 367 cases, and also assisted other agencies in no drug related crimes such as homicides, burglaries, and thefts,” Gentry said. That being the case, he said, the unit has recovered 1,354.975 grams of Ice with a street value of $1.33 billion in the culmination of those investigations, as well as 181,652 grams of marijuana valued at $648,757, as well as 30 marijuana plants valued at $30,000, along with 110.35 grams of crack cocaine valued at $10,035, 10,028 grams of powder cocaine valued at just over $1 million, and 80 prescription drug pills valued at $400. “The unit continues to keep trained on the trends dealers and traffickers are using to flood our communities with drugs,” Gentry said.