Law enforcement officials announced Thursday the formation of a new interdiction team that will patrol Harrison County roads to make an effort to stop the transporting of illegal drugs into the region.
United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, Captain James Merrill of the West Virginia State Police, Clarksburg Police, and Chief John Walker of the Bridgeport Police Department unveiled the Mountaineer Highway Interdiction Team on Feb. 6. They also outlined details from other patrols that have had success in the past.
The team, also known as MHIT South, said that its major focus will be on highways and state routes. MHIT will also concentrate on airports, bus terminals, hotel, motels, and package interdiction.
"MHIT South will provide an aggressive response to drug trafficking and other forms of criminal activity that we're faced with in North Central West Virginia," said Ihlenfeld. "It has been highly successful in other parts of the Northern District, and I'm confident that it will make a big impact here and change the way we fight crime in Harrison County."
In addition to their enhancement to the highway interdiction operations, MHIT will be working to disrupt criminal organizations within West Virginia. It will also assist in investigations of kidnappings, bank robberies, Amber Alerts, interstate thefts, detecting and recovering firearms, human trafficking, immigration violations, and fugitive apprehensions.
The unit is the second of its kind in the state, the first was formed in the Northern Panhandle in 2011. In 2013, MHIT North made 235 arrests, with 98 of those being felonies. It seized 1,600 dosage units of prescription drugs, the majority of those were painkillers. MHIT North seized large amounts of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, as well as firearms and stolen property. It reported nearly $40,000 in U.S. currency recovered and forfeited as proceeds of illegal drug trafficking, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's office.
MHIT South started operation at the end of 2013 and officers have made over 50 arrests, nearly half of those on drug related charges. The unit recovered large amounts of prescription medications, other illegal substances. In addition to this MHIT has recovered two firearms and $6,960 in currency. Two search warrants were obtained and eight informants have been developed.
"Law enforcement must work together to implement a comprehensive strategy in order to combat the epidemic of drug abuse in our region," said Captain Merrill. "The concept of highway interdiction, when practiced on a consistent basis, greatly increases the pressure placed upon drug dealers and makes them uncomfortable to the point that they often elect to go elsewhere to do business."