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Drug sweep in county will cut local trade, police say

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Lt. Amy Glover slammed her cruiser into reverse, stepped on the gas and whipped backward around a corner.

She was trying to head off a suspect as he fled from police early Wednesday morning in Andrews.

“They got him,” she said as she reached the other side of the block, where another Georgetown County sheriff’s deputy had the suspect pinned to the ground.

It was a scene enacted throughout Georgetown County over the course of about six hours as the sheriff’s office, aided by the State Law Enforcement Division, U.S. Marshals and Georgetown and Andrews police departments, made good on a promise to serve about 100 warrants on about 50 suspected drug dealers.

About 30 law enforcement officials left the sheriff’s office at 5 a.m. and the first arrest was made within 10 minutes.

The warrant round-up had resulted in 22 arrests on 44 warrants by the time it ended at around 11 a.m. The county-wide sweep didn’t include Waccamaw Neck, but deputies said they believe the arrests include people who deal drugs in the area. That’s been a concern among residents, who say they want more attention paid to people bringing drugs into the area.

Lt. Neil Johnson, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said the number of arrests was expected to increase today.

“We’ve already had some turn themselves in and we’ve got word that more are coming in,” he said.

According to Glover, that’s not unusual. Suspects will often turn themselves in when they find out the sheriff’s office has a warrant out for their arrest in order to avoid “being hunted,” and having deputies hound their families in an effort to locate them.

Law enforcement officers arrived at one residence in Andrews near dawn to find the suspect they were looking for dressed and waiting.

When warrant round-ups are conducted, it doesn’t take long for word to leak out as people start making phone calls that law enforcement is in the area and banging on doors, Glover said.

“Everybody’s skedaddling right now,” Glover said about two hours into the round-up. “It’s hard to hide six or seven patrol cars and when they see the slick cars like that,” she added, gesturing to an unmarked SUV, “it’s ‘SLED’s in town!’ ”

At one of the first residences officers hit, they found the suspect hiding under the bed. Deputies commonly find suspects hiding in all sorts of places when they come calling.

“They hide under clothes all the time,” she said. “I heard they once found one hiding in the dryer.”

The mother of one suspect gave law enforcement officers directions to the house where her son was staying, when officers pounded on her door just before 6 a.m., then immediately began trying to phone him to warn him they were coming. But they arrived more quickly than she anticipated, and the suspect was arrested.

In addition to Andrews, warrants were served in Georgetown and Pleasant Hill.

“There are some warrants for Waccamaw Neck, but the information we have on the suspects is that they have left the area,” Johnson said.

Those warrants will be entered into the National Crime Information Center, a computerized index of criminal justice information.

But even though arrests weren’t made on Waccamaw Neck, Johnson said the round-up will have an effect on drug activity here.

“They don’t live on Waccamaw Neck, but some of them sell there,” he said. “The goal is to reduce drug activity throughout the county.”

At a forum in the Pawleys Island area last month, officials with the sheriff’s office heard complaints about drug activity there from residents who said they wanted to see an increased police presence in their neighborhood.

Sheriff Lane Cribb assured them then that deputies patrol the area and carry out undercover drug buys.

Johnson said there’s no way of telling how much of a difference this week’s round-up will make in drug activity on Waccamaw Neck.

While the sheriff’s office only schedules warrant round-ups about twice a year, deputies said they serve warrants on a smaller scale every day.

Those arrested Wednesday were charged with trafficking a range of drugs, including marijuana, prescription drugs and crack cocaine, Johnson said.

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