BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — A new law enforcement team that’s now on the roads in Harrison County and surrounding areas is charged with stemming the tide of illegal drugs flooding into north central West Virginia.
U.S. Attorney Bill Ihlenfeld, State Police Captain James Merrill and Bridgeport Police Chief John Walker announced the creation of the Mountaineer Highway Interdiction Team, called MHIT South, on Thursday in Bridgeport.
Those with State Police, the Bridgeport Police Department, the Clarksburg Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are part of the effort which is concentrated on highways and state routes, airports, bus terminals, hotels and motels along with parcels and packages shipped through the mail.
“Their focus will be on trying to go after the sources of supply, the more significant dealers in the region, and the hope is, eventually, those organizations will elect not to do business in West Virginia anymore and they’ll go elsewhere,” said Ihlenfeld.
Their work, he said, will support the Greater Harrison Drug Task Force and other law enforcement agencies in the region.
Since launching in late 2013, Ihlenfeld said MHIT South has been credited with 50 arrests, mostly those related to drug charges, and seizures of illegal prescription medications, heroin and meth.
MHIT South is the second such cooperative effort involving local, state and federal officials in West Virginia’s northern district. The first Mountaineer Highway Interdiction Team, MHIT North, launched in the Northern Panhandle in 2011.
In 2013, MHIT North made 235 arrests, seized more than 1,600 dosages of prescription drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone, confiscated large amounts of heroin, cocaine and marijuana and recovered $40,000 in illegal drug trafficking proceeds.
“We found in the Northern Panhandle that we don’t see as much coming through, at least on Interstate 70, because of the presence of this interdiction team,” Ihlenfeld told MetroNews.
He said such a focused effort is needed. “We are seeing a lot of drugs coming into the region. We’re seeing large quantities of heroin coming into the region and, as we all know, we’ve all been talking about it a lot lately, heroin is such a deadly drug,” said Ihlenfeld.
“Sometimes, it gets mixed in with other drugs, such as fentanyl, and it’s killing people. So we need to put ever more pressure on these drug traffickers.”