BY AARON LONDON,
An early morning drug sweep Wednesday that included law enforcement personnel from Flagler, St. Johns and Putnam counties, along with other agencies, resulted in the arrests of 103 people, including 27 in Flagler County and two from Volusia County.
Dubbed “Operation Pain Management,” Wednesday’s sweep was the culmination of an eight-month investigation targeting street-level prescription drug traffickers by the North Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Tri-County Narcotics Task Force, officials said.
“They’re not just dealing drugs, they are dealing in addiction and death,” Flagler County Sheriff Don Fleming said during an afternoon news conference at his office’s operations center. “They need to be off the streets.”
Fleming said the agencies involved in the sweep are prepared to do it “again and again and again” to address the issue of prescription drug trafficking.
“We’re not so naive to think we have eradicated the problem,” he said.
Fleming, a Republican who’s running for re-election this year and faces a primary challenge, said cooperative efforts like Operation Pain Management are what it takes to combat the problem of prescription drug abuse.
He said residents can get involved by notifying law enforcement and said his office can be reached through social media networks such as Twitter as well as through more traditional means.
“If you see something suspicious, report it,” Fleming said.
The theme of cooperation and teamwork was underscored by Dominick Pape, special agent in charge for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Jacksonville office
“Without teamwork we would not have the success we have had today,” Pape said at the news conference.
State Attorney R. J. Larizza was also on hand for the news conference.
“This was a great operation and a great day for the residents of the 7th Judicial Circuit,” he said. “We’ve dedicated specific prosecutors in each county to make sure these cases get the attention they deserve.”
Fleming said drug sweeps like this one also have an impact on overall crime in the county.
“These are the people who are robbing our cars,” he said, “these are the people breaking into our houses.”
Since March 2011, similar Regional Drug Enforcement Strike Force actions statewide have resulted in 2,835 arrests and the seizure of 723,172 pills, 90 vehicles, 474 weapons and more than $9.7 million, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement news release.
Pape said Wednesday’s sweep will boost future efforts to combat prescription drug trafficking.
“We’re not done,” Pape said. “This is just the foundation. That’s the message today, we’re coming back.”