Drug Traffic Up On I-10 Since September Terrorist Attacks

Interstate 10 has always been a major drug corridor, but officers say since September 11th, they're making more stops and arresting more people.

Officers say like a lot of people, drug dealers aren't flying anymore since the September terrorist attacks. Instead, they're using I-10 and two examples show that.

According to the Harrison County Sheriff's Department, during an eight-day enforcement detail before September 11th, deputies made 660 vehicle stops. After 9-11, deputies stopped more than 1,800 vehicles over a 12-day period.

The extra activity on I-10 requires beefed up patrols, and a task force called HIDTA is making resources available for that.

Deputy Tony Sauro will stop about 30 vehicles on the interstate during his 10-hour shift. He's a lot busier these days since the September terrorist attacks, and the drugs he's seizing range from marijuana to cocaine to meth amphetamine.

"Since 9-11 we have seen it tremendously increase as far as arrests, drug trafficking and fugitive arrests," Sauro said.

The resources law enforcement use to beef up I-10 patrols, seize drugs and arrest fugitives aren't cheap. Millions of dollars are spent on vehicles, surveillance equipment, officer salaries and overtime. That's where the local, state and federal task force HIDTA helps out.

"HIDTA really stepped up to the plate providing money to educate and motivate people working criminal interdiction," Sauro said.

HIDTA pays for training and resources the sheriff's department and city police departments can't always afford in their war on drugs.

"It just takes a tremendous amount of resource in manpower and equipment to impact that. As long as there's a demand for drugs, and there's a demand in this country then you're going to have the market for it," Biloxi Police Chief Bruce Dunagan said.

"Certainly it's expensive, and we probably couldn't be doing what we're doing without HIDTA and the O-T and the equipment they've bought for us," Harrison County Sheriff George Payne said.

Along with the increase in traffic stops, Deputy Tony Sauro says he's also seen a new attitude among those he stops. He says before September 11th, drivers often complained of being harassed or a victim of racial profiling, but Sauro says now they tell him they understand the stepped up patrols and they appreciate the efforts police are making.