In the past six months, police have set up dozens of undercover drug deals in the Edinburgh area.
Undercover police officers bought heroin, methamphetamine and prescription pills. Each time, the deals were set up, recorded and the drugs handed over to police, while officers built criminal cases against 24 people, police said.
On Tuesday morning, more than 50 police officers and U.S. marshals went to more than a dozen homes and arrested 18 people, from a juvenile female to a 59-year-old man. Police are still looking for six others, most of whom police said might have moved out of the area.
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Police weren’t targeting the Edinburgh area but instead got information about several dealers who lived or primarily sold drugs in southern Johnson County, Sheriff Doug Cox said.
Several of those arrested were connected to each other or sold to the same buyers, Prosecutor Brad Cooper said. Informants helping police either knew several of the dealers or were able to find out who was selling different types of drugs in the area, he said.
“Picture a Venn diagram with about eight or nine circles, but many of them were connected to two or three or four of the others,” Cooper said. “This is not the most organized of meth drug circles.
“This is more of kind of a random few people that were dealing it that had crossovers,” Cooper said. “Typically meth users don’t buy from one person; they buy from two or three or four people because one person can’t get them enough.”
The raid was a continuing effort of the prosecutor’s office and local police to track where drugs come from by tracing them from the users back to the dealers, Cooper said. Last year, the prosecutor’s office charged 21 people after an investigation that netted several people who were dealing prescription drugs. In that case, police got tips about multiple people who were buying or selling the drugs.
Officers from the U.S. Marshals Service and every Johnson County police department worked together to blitz homes at 7 a.m. Tuesday and arrest as many people as they could simultaneously, Cooper said.
Suspects who weren’t at home typically were found quickly at the home of a family member, boyfriend or girlfriend and arrested. The sudden raid helped prevent people from running when they heard other dealers were being arrested, and doing it in the morning helped protect officers since most suspects were sleeping, Cooper said.
Some of those arrested previously have been convicted of drug crimes, Cooper said. For example, Ben Glover, 36, of Franklin, who was arrested on two counts of dealing methamphetamine, was released from prison in April after serving six years of a 20-year sentence for dealing narcotics, Cooper said.
Although heroin has been the largest drug problem to surface in the past few years, police found dealers who mostly worked with meth, Cooper said.
Changes in state law restricting how much pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in making meth, people can buy has reduced the number of large meth-cooking operations. Instead those have been replaced by people making small batches for their own use or to sell, which can lead users to buy drugs from multiple dealers.
Because dealers might have only a small amount at a time, that allowed undercover officers to identify and make purchases from one person and then get connected to other dealers, Cooper said.
Narcotics have been responsible for several overdoses in recent years, and the raid should make it harder for people to find these dangerous drugs, Cox said.
When police make arrests for other crimes, such as thefts and burglaries, they said they often find that the person arrested is connected to drugs. Cutting off a supply of drugs can help reduce other crimes, Cox said.
“When we get drug dealers off the street, we’re usually getting burglars, thieves, other felons off the street, too,” he said.