Butts County Sheriff Gary Long and officials from 16 other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies held a news conference Friday afternoon to discuss the success of 'Operation Crystal Web,' a five-month investigation of a methamphetamine distribution network across middle Georgia that began in Butts County and culminated with multiple arrests.
More than 140 arrest warrants were executed Friday on 70 suspects in 12 counties believed to be part of the network, and on 20 more suspects in Spalding County More than 125 deputies and police officers from the different agencies took part in the arrests. As of 2 p.m. Friday, 45 of of 70 suspects had been taken into custody and brought to Butts County for booking, and 12 of 20 more suspects were arrested in Spalding County.
Long said his office began the investigation last August and soon realized the enormity of the operation.
"We were targeting what we thought was a small group in our county,"Long said. "It didn't take long at all to realize how big this was going to be. I made the determination to partner with numerous other local, state and federal agencies in order to dismantle this drug dealing organization and stop the destruction it causes."
Agencies involved included the sheriff's offices in Spalding, Lamar, Monroe, Jasper, Pike, Meriwether and Upson counties, the Henry County Police Department, FBI - Middle District of Georgia, United States Marshals Office - Middle District of Georgia, DEA - Middle District of Georgia and Atlanta Field Office, GBI - West Metro Regional Drug Enforcement Office, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
At one point, the investigation led into Spalding County, and Long said they turned it over there to the Spalding County Sheriff's Office, the Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney, and the GBI's West Georgia Drug Task Force for a secondary investigation.
Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix said law enforcement there have arrested 12 of 20 suspects following the investigation, and praised the collaboration between agencies.
"What we have here is a prime example of what happens, and the good that comes out of law enforcement officers and agencies working together, putting egos aside, and doing exactly what they're supposed to do to protect the counties that they're in charge of," Dix said. "This is especially true for Georgia sheriffs who work together, and the agencies that work with them.
"You always hear people talking about cutting the head off a snake. Well, today there was a very big head cut off a very large snake in Georgia."
Daniel Sims, Special Agent in Charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations' West Metro Regional Drug Enforcement Office, added his praise to the efforts provided by multiple agencies during the investigation.
"GBI is pleased and confident that this has been one of the best efforts and collaborations of multiple law enforcement agencies in the metro Atlanta area that I've seen in a long time," Sims said, "and I'm honored to be with these fine sheriffs and district attorneys who have helped this came come to fruition."
Towaliga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jonathan Adams said the operation is "an outstanding example of law enforcement and how they can keep our communities safe. These types of drugs bring in the worst kinds of violence and harm to our communities. Our citizens are harmed by the drugs, they're harmed by the gangs, they're harmed by the guns, they're harmed by the trafficking that comes with every element of this crime.
"This was a huge operation. This was a huge group of people that we were able to go after, and I'm looking forward to being able to take these cases to court and getting the prosecution that they deserve and that the community deserves."
Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Marie Broder added her congratulations.
"Today is a monumental day. Today with 'Operation Crystal Web,' we took down prolific drug dealers who were spewing poisons into the streets of our communities. These traffickers were profiting off of people's pain.
"Methamphetamine is a poison, and these men and women were trafficking it all over our counties,' Broder added. "These dealers, these traffickers, they will feel the weight of the law from my office, and from the Towaliga Circuit's office."
Long concluded the news conference by stating that his office, and the other agencies involved will not tolerate illegal drug activity in Georgia and said he believes Operation Crystal Web will made a huge dent not only in drug trafficking, but also in related crimes.
"Right here in my community, there are about 45 people from Butts County who are now in jail," he said. "We will definitely see a sudden decrease in theft and burglaries and violent crimes as well, because we're knocking out these addicts and these dealers.
"If you just look at any community in the state of Georgia or any community in the country, they have a drug problem. The difference is in this county and in the counties represented here today, we're not going to turn a blind eye to it. We're going to investigate and dig and dig and dig until we identify you, arrest you, and prosecute you."