PINE BLUFF, Ark. (KTHV) - Authorities are charging 24 people in connection with "drug conspiracy and multiple substantive counts of distributing crack cocaine" through the Pine Bluff area. (PDF)
It is a city that has battled high crime rates and drug activity for years. But Thursday, after nearly three years of undercover buys and investigation, DEA agents swept the city indicting 34 people on drug charges and arresting 24.
The drug trafficking organization was responsible for distributing between six and eight pounds, that is three to four kilograms of cocaine and crack cocaine per month in the central and south Arkansas areas," said U.S. Attorney, Christopher R. Thyer.
Fighting those drug threats is what ICVR, Interested Citizens for Voter Registration, Executive Director, Reverend Jesse Turner does every day in Pine Bluff.
"We work with crime prevention, drug prevention," says Rev. Turner.
He says big busts like these prove community efforts are paying off.
"We are overjoyed. We are excited, we are happy about that. We want to see more of that. We believe that at least once or twice a month, we should have at least a hundred law enforcement agents in Pine Bluff getting drugs off the street, closing down crack houses, sending people to jail," says Rev. Turner
The major drug bust is a big step, Reverend Turner says, towards weeding out crime and seeding hope back into his city.
"That's part of our mission is to make this a better place to live and increase the quality of life for the citizens here in Pine Bluff," says Rev. Turner
The DEA says their undercover officers bought thousands of dollars worth of crack cocaine from these distributors in the course of their investigation. They also confiscated several semi-automatic weapons and cash during their sweep Thursday morning.
The DEA says the investigation into these mid to high level distributors took some time due to the number of people involved. They say their goal was dismantle the whole organization and to do that, they needed as much evidence as possible to make all of these charges stick.
So far 24 people have been arrested, with 10 suspects still on the loose. Those who were arrested Thursday are facing federal and state charges.
According to the indictment, Quentin Tidwell and Kennan Packard led the trafficking organization. Investigators say they and several others were responsible for distributing about three to four kilograms of cocaine per month.
The ring had been in operation since about October2009, according to the indictment. The DEA has traced the operation to Mexico.