Thursday, October 22, 2009

Riding Along on a Drug Raid

Brian Boesch

“Operation Busted Balloon” is over, and it was a success for local law enforcement agencies.

But what exactly did the operation do? It targeted all known heroin users and dealers in and around the Athens area. The operation focused on small towns such as Chauncey, Glouster and Jacksonville.

It was a grab bag of law enforcement with 11 agencies and more than 40 officers participating. But they all came together as one Wednesday morning. Take a look back at some video from the drug raid.

Athens MidDay reporter Brian Boesch gives you a brief overview of the sights and sounds from Wednesday's police raid.

Operation Busted Balloon Background
Before this operation could get off the ground, significant coordination was needed. According to Lieutenant Bryan Cooper of the Athens’ Sheriff Office, the organization took two months. One of the biggest hurdles was finding a date that worked for all 11agencies' busy schedules--that date was October 21.

These are the law enforcement agencies associated with “Operation Busted Balloon":

Athens Sheriff Office
Adult Parole Authority
State Highway Patrol
• State Highway Patrol’s Special Response Team
• Jacksonville Police Department
Glouster Police Department
• Municipal Court Probation
Ohio Department of Public Safety
Southeast Ohio Regional Jail
Ohio Department of National Resources
United States Marshalls

To bring about the best possible results, some groundwork was necessary before the big day. Various cops would ask people in the communities about the suspects. Where do they spend their time? What time are they at home? Where do they get gas or groceries? The approach was simple: the more information, the better.

They also organized “controlled buys". The cops would send an informant (who could be a random person from the town or a police officer working undercover) to buy from a person suspected of dealing drugs.

“We’ve prepared 18 arrest warrants for those people who our guys have bought drugs from,” Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly said.

“Without informants, we couldn’t do our jobs,” Cooper said.

The Standard Procedure
The day began early for the people involved--the “Balloon Busters” were out before the sun was up. While the original plan was to focus on heroin users and sellers, the day started with the capture of the inamte who escaped the Morgan County Jail. He was thought to be around the Athens area, and the officers found him before the morning ended.

Then, the original business of the day began. The group had set out to find a certain number of people, so they went after them one at a time. At times, certain groups would split up and either look for different people at the same time or the same person at different places. The cops made highly calculated moves and kept in constant contact with each other.

“The goal is to get as many and as much as we can,” Cooper said about yesterday’s efforts.

“They are just trying to get money to get a fix, and I understand their point,” Kelly said. "I understand where they’re at when the demons come calling, but the Sheriff’s office is gonna come calling. We’re gonna put an end to this. We’re gonna start saving lives.”

Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly talks about the goals of Operation Busted Balloon.

Athens MidDay reporter Craig Reck and I were a part of one "call." This particular raid involved multiple stages, and we did not even see the whole thing because of the long process. It involved a man who had sold heroin to an informant.

The entire group met up at the State Highway Patrol office to plot out their plan. After about 30 minutes of coordination, a group of cops went to the man’s house.

Once they arrived, several of the cops asked that he come to the door because they had a search warrant. However, the man was not home. This is where the secondary details come into play. A few officers drove around the Glouster area to find the man. Sure enough, the cops’ knowledge of the suspect paid off, and he was brought back to his home about 20 minutes after we arrived.

The officers spoke with him until we left, and details of his status were not available at the time of this publication.

By the time we left around 5 p.m., seven people had been found and arrested on at least one felony, and the operation was going to continue into the evening.

A Reflection of the Day’s Events
After much of the day was over, the results were very positive, according to the people involved. This is the first raid of this magnitude attempted around the Athens area.

“We’ve never really done anything like this, with so many agencies involved,” Cooper said. “I’m very pleased."

“It’s a great success,” Kelly said. “I’m very proud of every one of the officers that came out here.”

Kelly hopes that the public will support the officers in similar endeavors in the future.

Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly hopes for the support from the public.

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