Mark set for drug seizures

LAWRENCEVILLE - A coalition of Gwinnett law enforcement agencies in 2005 more than tripled the amount of narcotics seizures from the previous year and also arrested a record number of drug offenders.

The Gwinnett County Multi-Agency Drug Task Force locked up 1,475 alleged drug offenders in 2005, up from 1,314 the previous year, said Officer Darren Moloney, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department.

Police also confiscated $34 million worth of narcotics last year, more than triple the $9,543,268 in narcotics seized in 2004, Moloney said.

Officials attributed the dramatic increase in drugs confiscated and the additional arrests to hard-working investigators. The fact that metro Atlanta is a major distribution hub in the United States for all goods, legal or otherwise, is also a contributing factor.

Last year, the drug task force also began relying more heavily upon anonymous tips to its confidential hot line at 770-962-NARC (6272).

"They have been really tackling that anonymous tip line," Moloney said. "Residents are the first to notice when something is suspicious or not right in their neighborhoods."

A prime example of neighborhood tips paying off is the September arrests of 11 people in a methamphetamine distribution ring based in Buford. The arrests came after several neighbors began complaining to police about motorcyclists driving dangerously through their neighborhood.

When officers followed up on those tips, they discovered a pair of brothers well-known among police for past drug activity had moved into a rental house on Pass Court. Preston Smith and his brother, Trevor Smith, were both jailed after investigators seized about $23,000 cash and 46 grams of methamphetamine from the home. The other nine offenders were also arrested as a result of the long-term investigation.

"The main factor in that is neighbors continuously called in because the boys were going up and down the neighborhood a lot doing wheelies on their motorcycles," Moloney said. "Whether they knew it or not, that's what got the ball rolling."

Moloney urged residents to keep watch for suspicious activity such as heavy traffic going to and from other homes at all hours of the day. He also warned tipsters not to be discouraged if no police action is immediately apparent.

"We normally do not get back in contact with the complainant, which is frustrating for some people," Moloney said.

"They look out their window and expect to see a bunch of uniformed patrol officers next door, but it doesn't always work that way. These are undercover officers. Two days later, there may be a massive arrest."

About 20 officers from the Gwinnett County Police Department, Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office and Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Norcross, Snellville and Suwanee police departments make up the multi-agency drug task force.