Drug Bust In Pearl River County Nets Dozens Of Arrests

Armed with 61 arrest warrants, law enforcers hit the streets earlier Thursday morning hoping to roust suspected drug dealers and addicts out of bed.

By mid-morning, the agencies involved had rounded up nearly 30 suspected pushers.

"We had a couple of mid-level dealers that we pulled off the street that was selling quite a bit within a week's time," Picayune Police Chief Brenda Smith said. "We've managed to get a hold of them. For our small county, we're lucky to do that because most of the people we get are street runners and users."

People suspected of abusing the prescription drug Oxycontin were arrested as well. The Bureau of Narcotics' Pharmaceutical Diversion Unit arrested 21 alleged Oxycontin abusers after screening records from local pharmacies.

"We conducted a record search an extensive record search on the pharmacies around Picayune then proceeded to compile all the information and identify suspects," Frank Altieri with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics said. "Oxycontin is a great controlled substance when properly used and prescribed. When abused, Oxycontin is dangerous and could be lethal."

Authorities say in the last two years, 12 deaths in Pearl River County have been linked to Oxycontin abuse, and the investigation lead them to at least two Louisiana Doctors allegedly writing prescriptions for Oxycontin.

"I'm pleased that there were no Pearl River County doctors that were identified as problems in this," Pearl River County District Attorney Buddy McDonald said. "In other words, these addicts are having to go out of town to obtain these prescriptions."

Officials say the Oxycontin problem is bigger than anyone can imagine. He says his jail has held as many as 10 addicts a day waiting to get into the State hospital for rehab.

"The waiting list is so long that we're having them as long as six weeks waiting on beds," Sheriff Joe Stuart said.

Sheriff Stuart hopes Thursday's roundup will serve as a wake-up call to abusers to get help before it's too late.