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14 busted in Chiefland drug raid

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By Jeff M. Hardison

Busted!

This is probably among the words flying through the air as suspected drug buyers and sellers called each other on their cell phones shortly after 2 p.m. on Saturday.

That's when a set of drug raids started. Officers netted 14 people who are suspected of having committed 38 felonies and four misdemeanors on March 22, according to records.

Members of the Chiefland Police Department, Levy County Sheriff's Office, State Attorney's Office and Ocala Police Department conducted the 10-hour mission. They worked together under the title of the Levy County-Chiefland Drug Task Force.

The first objective was to arrest drug dealers from previous narcotic investigations. Officers posing as drug dealers and selling drugs was the second objective, according to Chiefland Police Chief Robert Douglas and Levy County Sheriff Johnny Smith.

Officers confiscated three vehicles, cash, drugs and drug paraphernalia as part of their actions. During one arrest, a defendant had a 13-year-old child present in a vehicle when they bought crack cocaine, LCSO Lt. Evan Sullivan said. This person was charged with child neglect, he added.

Before the arrests, more than 20 people gathered at a command center to review a plan for the arrests and drug stings. A trailer equipped with radios, computers, a refrigerator and other equipment served as the nerve center for the takedowns and drug buys.

Smith said the trailer had been refurbished after it was confiscated from a theft operation. Even if the LCSO communication center in Bronson went out, this portable unit could handle the LCSO needs for the most part, Smith said.

The sheriff said he is well pleased with his officers and the work of the CPD team.

"It takes several months of work to get all these drug dealers picked up," Smith said.

Chief Douglas, LCSO Special Operations Commander Lt. Scott Anderson and LCSO Drug Task Force Commander Duane Dykstra led the operation.

The men in the field traveled in unmarked and marked vehicles to quickly arrive at known locations to arrest the suspected crack cocaine dealers. While temperatures were in the low 70s and skies were cloudy, officers felt some degree of heat and weight from wearing bulletproof vests.

No shots were fired by law enforcement officers or suspected drug dealers during the roundup. The action went smoothly.

"Everything is well organized and choreographed," Smith said.

The arrests from Saturday afternoon went into Saturday night. The busts reflected results from the cooperative effort of law enforcement agencies to stem the tide of illegal drug use in Chiefland and Levy County.

When people sell or buy drugs here, they might be buying from a police officer or they may be selling to a police officer, Douglas said.