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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of West Virginia

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

MHIT “Blitz” Leads To Results

1125 Chapline Street, Federal Building, Suite 3000 ● Wheeling, WV 26003
(304) 234-0100 ● Contact: Chris Zumpetta-Parr, Public Affairs Specialist

MHIT leaders announce anti-drug enforcement efforts

WHEELING, WEST VIRGINIA – Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger, Ohio County Sheriff Pat Butler and Captain James Merrill of the West Virginia State Police today announced the results of an enhanced operation by the Mountaineer Highway Interdiction Team (MHIT) that occurred over the past week in Ohio County.

Leaders of the MHIT agencies explained that a “Blitz”, or saturation patrol, took place between May 19 and May 23 with increased patrols on highways and secondary roads throughout the area. Neighborhoods in Ohio County received extra attention as part of the project, as did parcels and packages that were being shipped to and from Northern West Virginia. In addition to the regular members of the MHIT team, additional officers participated in the saturation patrols last week.

Captain Merrill of the State Police explained that as a result of the effort last week, forty- nine felony and misdemeanor arrests were made and eighty-two citations were issued. Substances recovered included prescription painkillers, psilocybin, and marijuana. Officers also conducted warrant service throughout the area.

“The MHIT team paid extra attention to certain areas of the City last week based upon what we’ve been hearing from members of the community,” said Chief Schwertfeger. “I look forward to organizing enhanced patrols like this one again in the future so that we can continue to identify hot spots and keep Wheeling safe.”

The leaders of MHIT explained that the resources now available to the team on a regular basis include four officers – two of which are K-9 handlers – along with regular support from the Drug Enforcement Administration. The agencies involved have been very pleased with the team approach to interdiction.

“MHIT allows us to increase the presence of law enforcement on our roadways and it also serves as a partner to the Ohio Valley Drug Task Force,” said Sheriff Butler. “The MHIT officers coordinate with the Task Force officers to combat drug traffickers who attempt to operate in the region.”

The MHIT leaders also discussed results for the first four months of this year. Between January and April of 2014, MHIT officers made fifty-three felony arrests, sixty-seven misdemeanor arrests, and issued fifty-four misdemeanor citations. A total of seventy-nine searches were conducted during that time period, including forty-five by K-9 units. Drugs valued at $62,493 were seized, and cash connected to criminal activity in the amount of
$113,431 has been seized and either will be forfeited or has already been returned to crime victims.

MHIT’s primary purpose is to enhance regional interdiction operations in order to slow the flow of illegal drugs into and through the State of West Virginia. The major focus of MHIT is on highways and state routes but it also concentrates on airports, bus terminals, hotels, motels and parcel and package interdiction. Besides enhancing regional highway interdiction operations, MHIT has the added benefit of preserving citizen safety on West Virginia highways through effective traffic and commercial vehicle enforcement. MHIT also assists in investigating kidnapings, bank robberies, carjackings, Amber Alerts and interstate theft; the detection and enforcement of firearms and explosives; human trafficking and immigration violations; and with fugitive apprehension.

MHIT receives federal funding from the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking
Area (AHIDTA) initiative.

Regular updates on the work of MHIT will be made via press releases from its member agencies as well as via the official Twitter feed of the United States Attorney’s Office,

Updated January 7, 2015