9 Investigates pushed for answers about a drop in drug-related arrests by the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation.
Investigative reporter Karla Ray first reported last month that MBI made fewer drug-related arrests in 2018 than any other year in the task force’s 40-year-history. Tuesday, Director Ron Stucker told her even though arrests were down, his agents took more drugs off the streets.
Stucker initially declined a request for an interview about the 2018 annual report, but now he says the task force’s goal for 2019 is to dismantle at least four major drug trafficking organizations, looking to continue large seizures of drugs to prevent overdoses in Orange and Osceola counties.
MBI’s 2018 annual report revealed 68 total drug-related arrests, with 40 of those considered traffickers. That was the lowest number of total drug-related arrests in MBI’s history, and one of the lowest number of trafficker arrests.
“We are hitting our goals, and we are meeting the things that are priority to us,” Stucker said.
Stucker says MBI’s investigators, who are assigned from partnering law enforcement agencies, are focused on high-volume, violent drug dealers.
“While arrests may have been lower, our seizures were much, much higher,” Stucker said of 2018. “Forty-nine kilos of cocaine, over 14 kilos of heroin.”
Those heroin seizure numbers are some of the highest in MBI’s history, and heroin continues to be the focus of the task force.
So far this year, MBI has already announced the dismantling of a powerful drug trafficking organization. Sixteen people were arrested on suspicion of selling heroin and other drugs out of the infamous Happy Place bar.
MBI is required to meet certain goals set by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s HIDTA program, which stands for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. Last year, MBI’s HIDTA goal was to dismantle five major drug-trafficking organizations. For 2019, Stucker says the goal is four.
“Sometimes, you may have to go out there and make a high number of arrests to clean up the streets, but there are other times you need to focus on long-term investigations,” Stucker said.
Stucker is preparing a presentation to give to Orange County commissioners in the coming weeks that he hopes will strengthen possible partnerships for future operations.
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