Operation Shield a success

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – The Ohio State Highway Patrol and county law enforcement agencies held a press conference at the patrol post Tuesday, announcing the results of a major anti-drug initiative that took place Thursday and Friday.

Departments involved included the Belmont County Drug Task Force, the sheriff’s department, Bellaire, Bridgeport, Martins Ferry, Shadyside and St. Clairsville police departments and the highway patrol.

The coordinated effort, dubbed Operation Shield, saw 467 vehicles stopped and 158 enforcement actions. This resulted in 28 criminal cases, 15 drug cases, seven felony drug cases, eight misdemeanour drug cases, 18 warrants served, eight OVI’s, 19 cases of driving under suspension and 312 warnings.

The amount of drugs seized have not been calculated, but included marijuana, crack, cocaine, heroine and prescription narcotics.

Also coinciding with these actions, a search warrant was served on a Bellaire residence where police say drugs, paraphernalia, prescription pills, cash and electronic devices were traded for drugs.

One stolen motorcycle was recovered and two additional ATVs were seized. A total of $3,475 was also seized.

“That operation was to go after those who are harming our community,” said Prosecutor Chris Berhalter.

“Everyone was on board for it,” said John McFarland, Martins Ferry Police Chief and Drug Task Force commander, adding that this was their first operation of such scope undertaken with the highway patrol. “I hope we continue to do more in the future.”

He added that further investigations are planned using evidence collected during the two-day operation.

“I’m going to encourage agencies to participate more in these to send a message to the people out there that we’re going to be more aggressive in investigating drug crimes,” McFarland said. “Any type of operation where you’re stopping types of drug sales in a community is a goal.”

The Bellaire house was searched in the early hours of Saturday. Police Chief Michael Kovalyk noted that it was part of an ongoing investigation by the task force and local agencies. He commended the teamwork of all officers involved, who took broad action in a short time with no injuries.

“We try to do all we can, with limited resources and the need to share agency information,” he said. He also thanked the prosecutor’s office for their cooperation in furnishing search and arrest warrants.

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com