By Rebecca Croomes and Holly Holman
The entire Athens Police Department rounded up drug dealers Saturday as part of a six-month operation known as Operation Harvest Festival.
Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said at a Saturday afternoon press conference that undercover drug deals and surveillance on dealers resulted in 95 arrest warrants issued for 43 people.
The 95 warrants are for 42 cases of distribution of a controlled substance, 27 cases of conspiracy to commit a controlled substance crime, 21 cases of possession of a controlled substance and five non-drug related cases such as traffic violations or failure to appear in court.
Six additional drug related charges were added after the arrests and further charges may be pending.
The roundup led to police apprehending 31 of the 43 suspects, and officers continued to search for the remaining 12 suspects Saturday afternoon.
Johnson spread guns, pills, money, a digital scale with cocaine residue and cellphones across a table at the press conference.
“This is a small sampling of what we recovered,” he said.
There was also a can of Aquanet hairspray with a false bottom used for hiding drugs.
Operations began at 4 a.m. Saturday, with a second wave beginning at 6 a.m. No injuries were reported.
“I’m very proud of our officers, they did an outstanding job,” Johnson said.
Johnson thanked the Limestone County Correctional Facility drug canine unit for assisting in the roundup.
During the operation, an Athens Police officer discovered a malnourished pit bull mix at one of the residences. The dog was seized and taken to a veterinarian for treatment.
Because of the extensive nature of the drug bust, Johnson invited District Attorney Brian Jones to attend the roundup. Johnson is also asking Jones to support seeking restitution from the defendants for the department’s expenses related to this investigation.
Police intend to follow up on all cases in six months to measure the success of this type of procedure.
“For us the work does not stop today,” Johnson said. “We don’t want them back in our community picking up where they left off selling drugs.”
Mayor Ronnie Marks commended the department for its efforts to protect citizens and take drugs off the city’s streets.
“The fight against drugs is ongoing, but operations like this should prove to dealers in Athens that our officers are committed to continue the fight,” Marks said. “These officers have worked long hours to build these cases, and I hope the citizens of Athens will join me in giving them our heartfelt thanks.”
More detailed information and any updates on the investigation will be available online at enewscourier.com and in the Tuesday edition of The News Courier.