The traffic unit of the Bryan County Sheriff’s Department has been busy this past month. Highway busts from the unit resulted in the seizure of over $60,000 in suspected drug money over the last 30 days.
This is added to the pot of the estimated $10 million in drug money and about that same street dollar value in narcotics that the unit has seized in the last decade. Most of it comes from traffic stops along the Bryan County stretches of I-95 and I-16.Bryan County Sheriff Clyde Smith points out that the money seized by the unit directly affects the tax-paying citizens of Bryan County. He explained that the department gets to keep a percentage of the money which in turn goes toward purchasing vehicles and a variety of other necessary equipment. Without the confiscated funds, these purchases would have to come out of the pockets of tax payers, said Smith.
Current unit members Lt. David Blige, Deputy Mark Crowe, Cpl. John Meacham and Mirza (Meacham’s K-9) utilized their training tactics to seize approximately $20,000 in each of three busts this past month.
On May 3, Lt. Blige initiated a southbound traffic stop near the 80 mile marker on I-95 after witnessing a swerving in the center lane. After picking up on some tell-tale signs, Blige requested permission to search the vehicle from the driver from New York, and was denied access. Blige was granted permission to run a K-9 around the vehicle, so he called in Crowe and Meacham.
Mirza the K-9 led the deputies to some marijuana residue in the center console which initiated a search. Crowe seized a black bag filled with cash after pulling open the tire well.
On April 25, at the same location, Blige pulled over a North Carolina vehicle after observing it weaving across the highway. Upon interviewing the driver and passenger, he received conflicting stories as to their destination.
Blige received consent to search the vehicle and called Meacham for back-up. Meacham found a Wal-Mart bag filled with cash which was then seized.
On April 12, Crowe pulled over a car southbound from South Carolina which had an obstructed tag. The passenger and driver gave Crowe two different stories as to their destination, which gave him probable cause for a search.
Consent was not given, but it was given for a K-9. Lt. Blige and a nearby K-9 handler arrived, and a trace odor of narcotics was established. In the corresponding search, a black gym bag full of cash was discovered in the trunk which was abruptly seized.
Blige said the driver claimed the money, but called the Sheriff’s Department days later to say that it wasn’t his.
Blige said he suspects the drivers of these three southbound vehicles were headed to Miami which is known to be a place to pick up large quantities of drugs. No arrests were made in conjunction with the seizures as no narcotics were recovered. The money recovered will now go through the court system. If the suspects wish to recover the cash, they must prove they attained it by legal means.
Blige said these are just a few examples of the countless number of drug runners that pass through Bryan County each day.
"There’s no telling just how many drug runs actually go through here," Lt. Blige contemplated. "We just hope that the work we do will play some part in the big picture to eradicating the drug problem in America. I think the message we’re sending is clear."