UPDATE: Two More Arrested in "Operation River to Jail" Campaign

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UPDATE 8/7/14 @ 2 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Two more people have been arrested as part of the Huntington Police Department's ongoing "Operation River to Jail" campaign.

Police raided a house in the 300 block of 6th Avenue on Thursday, and found evidence of a meth lab in the home.

Robert Walker, 54, was charged with operating a meth lab. Sharon Elkins, 49, is charged with maintaining a dwelling. Both people are from Huntington.

Thursday’s raid comes after police arrested 25 people Tuesday.

Huntington Police Capt. Rocky Johnson says the effort to put a stop to drugs in the city has forced people involved in drugs to scatter.

"People that were in certain places aren't there anymore," said Capt. Johnson. "We've had landlords calling us and telling us that people have moved out in the middle of the night after that roundup and now they're just gone."

Neighborhood residents are worried about the drug problem hitting so close to home.

"You don't want to think about it, because this is your neighborhood," says Karl Pahlmann, who lives across the street from where the meth lab was found. "It's quite surprising to find out all of a sudden."

Residents alerted patrol officers of suspicious activity at the home, which led to Thursday's arrests .

"People are just sick and tired of the dope and the drug dealers hanging out on their porches and all that," said Capt. Johnson.

"The people of Huntington are just sick and tired of it."

Mayor Steve Williams announced the "Operation River to Jail" efforts last month.



UPDATE 8/5/14 @ 7:40 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Huntington Police are scouring the city for what they're calling "Operation River to Jail".

The efforts are part of Mayor Steve Williams' plan to stop drugs and crime from wreaking havoc on Huntington.

Huntington Police spent much of Tuesday afternoon, making visits at other homes and businesses looking for suspects.

Police arrested 25 suspects in areas around the city.

No matter which you ask, each suspect Huntington Police officers brought in as part of their operation, has an outstanding warrant.

"I have no idea, I don't know nothing," said one suspect.

"I have no idea," another said.

"They done a sweep on a drug raid, and I just happened to be there," said another man waiting to see a magistrate judge.

Huntington Police said there are more than 60 suspects, with a target on their back for drugs or violent crimes. Some of them are involved in shootings as recent as last week.

"If you have warrants on you and you know it, turn yourself in," Huntington Police Capt. Rocky Johnson said. "You can choose the time because ours are going to be inconvenient for you. and it's purposefully inconvenient. If you're a landlord, now's the time to tighten up how you do business. Do background checks, know who your tenants are and move the bad ones out, and if you're a drug dealer, it's time to go back where you came from. The mayor has made it clear; he doesn't want you here."

Many of Tuesday's arrests surrounded drug crimes specifically.

In the sweep operations Tuesday, police found marijuana, heroin, pills, $40,000 cash, and a car, which were all taken into evidence.

Investigators said the the cash is equivalent to about 300 grams of heroin prevented from hitting the streets.

Police said drugs are being sold citywide, no matter the neighborhood.

One man was open about why he was in cuffs.

"It was a dimebag of marijuana ... I'm a veteran, I have post-traumatic stress syndrome, I use it to self-medicate myself," he said.

It's the first big operation the department has unrolled since the mayor announced tougher efforts and the hiring of 10 more officers.

The chief is adamant this first round is only the beginning.

"Who would've thought years ago, we would be here today, with a drug bust?" HPD Interim Chief Jim Johnson said.

Police said Greyhound buses were packed Tuesday, as suspects left town.

Ohio State Highway Patrol also helped Huntington Police Tuesday. Investigators said they monitored bridges leaving the city for known suspects.

The mayor announced these efforts last month, as a way to stop out-of-state drug dealers and criminals from making Huntington their new home.

It's expected to cost about $500,000 for 10 new officers.



ORIGINAL STORY 8/5/14 @ 2:03 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) --A citywide warrant sweep for approximately 60 people, all wanted for drug or violent crimes is underway in Huntington.

The Huntington Police Department’s Special Investigations Bureau is heading the operation, dubbed “Operation: River to Jail,”

It is part of a new law enforcement strategy to combat drug trafficking and other crimes that are often associated with the activity.

“This operation serves as a warning to all out-of-state drug dealers that if they decide to cross the Ohio River and come to Huntington to peddle their poison, they’re going to jail,” HPD Capt. Rocky Johnson said.

Funding for the new strategy was proposed by Mayor Steve Williams and approved by Huntington City Council on July 24. It also involves hiring 10 new Huntington Police officers later this fiscal year.

Today’s warrant sweep will include SWAT operations for high-risk targets. Members of the Huntington Violent Crime Federal Drug Task Force, HPD Detective Bureau and Patrol Division also are assisting.

Moe information on the operation is expected to be released at a press conference later Tuesday.


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