With a goal of arresting 62 identified alleged sellers, officers with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, West Metro Regional Drug Enforcement Office, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Carrollton police, Villa Rica police, U.S. Marshal’s Office and Bowdon police set out Wednesday before dawn to track down and bring into custody those wanted on drug charges — ranging from possession of narcotics to trafficking — during a 12-hour effort called “Operation Timber Wolf.”
After noon, West Metro Special Agent in Charge Chris Tolbert said 36 people had already been arrested in the county on crack cocaine, methamphetamine, prescription narcotics or marijuana charges by the more than 60 officers participating in the operation. An ad hoc processing center was created at the Carroll County Agricultural Education Center to expedite the booking process as officers continued to bring in more suspects before they were taken to the Carroll County jail to await a first-appearance hearing by a magistrate judge.
Carroll County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Brad Robinson said Sheriff Terry Langley requested the operation last year after a similar operation in 2002 was successful in rounding up scores of suspected drug offenders.
In July 2008, Tolbert said undercover agents began conducting controlled purchases of narcotics to identify those individuals selling drugs. That investigation lasted nearly a full year before the cases were presented to a grand jury this month. The majority of those arrested Wednesday had been indicted by the grand jury on the charges prior to their arrest, authorities said.
Tolbert said the suspects were arrested and taken to the Ag-Ed center, where the GBI continued interviews and about 50 percent of the book-in process required before they are an inmate in jail was completed at the Ag-Ed center. Sheriff’s deputies and other officers secured doors and other exits at the center while the suspects were there. When about five suspects had been processed, Robinson said a sheriff’s transport van would move them to their new temporary housing at the jail.
Robinson said that when officers started searching for the suspects around 6 a.m., most were found in their homes still asleep. As the day continued on, deputies said it became a little more difficult once the suspects had left their homes. Some had been located at their jobs, and the operation was expected to continue on into the late evening hours as officers were hopeful to arrest all 62 suspects.
With 173 people arrested a few weeks ago during a sheriff’s office roundup and at least 36 more suspects filling beds in the jail Wednesday, Robinson said for only the second time since the jail’s opening in 2001 the inmate population has reached 600. The jail’s capacity is 645 inmates.
Although Tolbert has participated in operations in his career as a GBI agent throughout the state similar to the one held Wednesday, he said the Carroll County operation was different in that approximately 70 percent of those wanted on drug charges were repeat offenders with a criminal history with violent crimes ranging from aggravated assault, rape and murder.
One of the better-known suspects charged Wednesday, James Lee Prothro III, 24, of Carrollton, was indicted during the undercover operation on drug charges. Prothro had also been indicted by the grand jury this month on two counts of malice murder, two counts of felony murder and three counts of aggravated assault and burglary in connection with the Dec. 24, 2008, shooting that left two men dead and another wounded at a house on Molette Street in Carrollton.
“I’ve done about 100 of these operations, and this is the first one where about 70 percent of the people wanted had been repeat offenders,” Tolbert said. “There were individuals with almost any type of violent crime, minus kidnapping, that had been identified during the operation. These people now are not on the streets of Carroll County any more committing criminal activity.”
Robinson said the drug offenders arrested Wednesday were often the street-level offenders who commonly targeted children and teenagers without discretion.
“This type of offender continues to commit these offenses and are the ones to service our children with drugs,” he said. “It’s those dealers who stand on the streets that are both visible and selling very addictive drugs that destroy a person’s life and their family’s life. It’s exciting that we’ve made such progress today and have a strong working relationship with the West Metro Regional Drug task force. These are the dealers of the street that will sell to the youth without prejudice. Often it’s the big dealers that are more discreet, and those investigations are more lengthy.”
Langley said the purpose of the operation was to continue collaborative efforts to combat drug activity in the county. He said it is through combining the manpower of the Sheriff’s Office and municipal agencies and extensive resources of the task force that the operation was able to take place.
Using the undercover officers, Tolbert said about $32,000 in methamphetamine, marijuana, crack cocaine and prescription pills had been purchased by officers and recovered in the county from those sought and arrested Wednesday.
“Drug enforcement has been and will remain a high priority,” he said. “This is something that will benefit the entire community.”
Robinson said although Wednesday’s operation will hopefully send a strong message to those involved in drugs, the effort by law enforcement will have to continue.
“Certainly the streets in Carroll County will be quiet for sometime, but it is false hope to say it will stay like that forever,” he said. “As a deputy, the job is ongoing, but this is one day that you can see an end to an operation and nearly year-long investigation with this many arrests.”