ST. GEORGE – Over 2.5 tons of illegal narcotics was seized by agents and troopers with the Utah Department Public Safety over the last year, the agency reported Monday.
“It’s been another busy year for the Utah Highway Patrol and State Bureau of Investigation,” UHP Lt. Jared Garcia said during a press conference held Monday in Taylorsville.
With the aid of the Statewide Information and Analysis Center, agents and troopers made 227 vehicles stops during 2017 that resulted in drug busts and seizures.
Those seizures produced 4,450 pounds of marijuana, over 550 pounds of methamphetamine, over 100 pounds of cocaine, 46 pounds of heroin and 1,100 pills. Over 40 firearms were also confiscated from individuals with previous felony convictions.
“We’re very proud of our team,” Garcia said, noting that the number of narcotics seized this years is similar to amounts seized in 2016.
The amount of narcotics seized represents “millions and millions of dollars,” he said, adding that the profits from the drugs once they hits the streets “are enormous.”
Of the 227 vehicles stopped by UHP, 40 were bound for locations in Utah, primarily the Salt Lake Valley, Garcia said. The rest were passing through to destinations like the East Coast.
“It’s being distributed all across the country,” he said.
Garcia said the methamphetamine came from Northern California and Mexico, while the marijuana came from Southern California.
There was an uptick in the amount of cocaine seized by troopers, though that was attributed in part to the large effort law enforcement agencies and others put into Operation Rio Grande in Salt Lake City over the last few months. High amounts of cocaine and heroin have been found during the operation, which aims to clean up the neighborhood around the homeless shelter in the city’s Rio Grande area.
Drug busts in Utah have led to arrests outside of the state, Garcia said, adding that DPS works with other state and federal agencies to help disrupt drug trafficking where possible.
Still, it is alarming to law enforcement to see large amounts of any kind of drug come into and through the state, Garcia said, citing a number of large methamphetamine busts made over the last year.
Col. Brian Redd, head of the State Bureau of Investigation, said law enforcement alone won’t be able to solve the drug problem or the issues that often accompany it.
“It takes a whole community approach,” Redd said, using Operation Rio Grande as an example, as more than just law enforcement agencies are involved in cleaning up that area.
“We have service providers, law enforcement, health care organizations – we all come together to try and attack the supply of narcotics,” he said. “We try address the use, not just with arrest and incarceration, but with services and treatment, and we try to help with mental health concerns. … So we all have to work together. Law enforcement is not going to solve all of these problems alone. It’s going to take communities, the public, all of us coming together.”
In addition to being caught up in drug busts via traffic stop, several individuals involved were found with stolen credit cards and financial documents, and were suspected credit card skimmers, child predators, fugitives and homicide suspects, according to DPS.
“DPS’ Utah Highway Patrol and State Bureau of Investigation continue to focus on all crimes, all threats, and all hazards during our interdiction efforts,” Utah DPS said Monday in a press release. “We believe these efforts help provide a safer environment for people of Utah, as well as people in other parts of the country.”
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