Cops focus on U.S. 321 drug crimes

Law enforcement concentrated efforts on arresting drug criminals along U.S. 321 between I-40 and I-85 in recent months.

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office Drug Interdiction Criminal Enforcement (DICE) team reports increased numbers of drug arrests on the highway since December 2010. The section of highway, according to the office, is a major cut-through road for drugs and drug currency moving through the state.

The sheriff's office also reports that the increased presence of officers on U.S. 321 and other major highways in the county has caught the attention of careless drivers and caused them to slow down.

Since the DICE team began, officers have tallied 56 felony drug charges, 62 misdemeanor drug charges, 12 felony non-drug charges, 87 misdemeanor drug charges, seven guns seized or found, and eight vehicles seized. More than $25,000 in currency, 10 ounces of crack cocaine, 17 pounds of cocaine, 12 pounds of marijuana and 20 grams of heroin have been seized.

Much of the success of the drug crackdown along U.S. 321 stems from training received from the Iredell County Drug Interdiction team and other specialized training, Lincoln County Sheriff's Office officials say. Subtle clues that were overlooked in the past are now setting off warning bells, and those warnings often signal the end of the road for drug users and traffickers.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department started the DICE unit – comprised of six officers – on a full-time basis in December 2010.

Lt. Jason Reid, a narcotics officer with the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, leads the DICE team. He said team officers arrested two men with 3.5 ounces of crack cocaine on the first day of the drug operation.

“The presence of the DICE teams in Lincoln and Iredell Counties will force drug dealers to find new routes to get their illegal drugs through the area," Reid said.

Lincoln County Sheriff David Carpenter agreed.

“The efforts of our DICE and narcotics teams continue to be the most proactive efforts that I have ever been a part of in a law enforcement agency," Carpenter said. "We will continue to promote public safety through these efforts to provide for a safer county for all our citizens."