Drug fight hits the streets

DeWayne Bartels
Woodford County Sheriff James Pierceall, left, and chief deputy Darren Evans discuss the county's recent efforts in the local war on drugs. Pierceall said the fight is never-ending, but said the county's pro-active approach is showing results.

The Woodford County Sheriff’s Department is not sitting idly by in the war on drugs.

Woodford County Sheriff James Pierceall said, last week, the department has dramatically increased drug interdiction efforts county-wide in the past nine months.

“We’ve been very busy at least the last three months doing drug interdiction,” he said.

The most recent drug crack-down occurred in June during the Ellendorf Music Festival.

“We had information about drugs going in and out of there,” Pierceall said.

The festival, he said, has become a sore spot in recent years with drug overdoses, sexual assaults and noise. This year’s festival June 11 to 13 drew about 1,000 people.

Pierceall said the department acting  on intelligence did saturation patrols during the festival. The department used their own K-9 and three others provided by other area law enforcement departments, including the Illinois State Police.

Thirteen drug arrests were made one night and on another a DUI  and four other drug arrests were made.

But, the festival is not the only place the department is making its stand against drugs.

The sheriff said for at least nine months the department has been staging drug check-points at rest stops in Woodford County.

“We’ve gotten guns and drugs,” Pierceall said. “We’re not just sitting back. We are being pro-active.”

Helping to get the message across that Woodford County will not tolerate drug activity, Pierceall said, is the county’s new vehicle impound effort.

Pierceall said that vehicles are being seized for arrestable offenses. At the Ellendorf Festival alone the department seized 12 vehicles. Owners have to pay $250 to get their vehicle back.

Pierceall said Woodford County does not face the same kind of drug issues Peoria, Tazewell and McLean counties do. But, he said that does not mean there is not an issue here.

The sheriff said the effort has come with costs for overtime. And, he said, that as the cases work their way through court and fines are assessed the effort will probably be a “wash” financially.

“We aren’t doing as much of this as I’d like. We do have to watch the budget. We’re trying to be selective when and where we do these efforts,” Pierceall said.

Pierceall said he cannot pick out any drug hot spots.

“I can’t say any community is the worst. We have a little in all of them,” he said.

“The biggest drug issue here is marijuana. But, prescription drug abuse among teens is way up. We have made some arrests for kids selling prescription drugs at Metamora High School. We know it’s happening.”

Pierceall shook his head when asked if he felt the department was winning the local war on drugs.

“It’s like a roller-coaster. You think sometimes you made a big dent,” he said. “Two months later you hear about more activity. But, overall, I think we have made an impact.”