9 arrested in drug crackdown

Staff WriterDecember 23, 2005 

Police arrested nine people this week on charges of selling cocaine and crack cocaine as part of a months-long investigation.

"It's luck of the draw and good police work," Hillsborough Police Chief Clarence Birkhead said Thursday.

As part of the investigation, undercover officers bought drugs, sometimes returning to a dealer several times to make sure they had enough evidence for a conviction.

Police arrested eight suspects Wednesday and a ninth Thursday. Most were arrested in and near the Fairview neighborhood off U.S. 70 Bypass West on the north side of town.

The officers also seized Oxycontin, other prescription drugs and marijuana.

Birkhead said he expects more arrests but would not say how many. Birkhead, former head of Duke University's campus police, started as Hillsborough's police chief in July.

Town Manager Eric Peterson praised the department, which has 27 officers but only one narcotics officer.

"All the officers on the job are working as a team," he said. "Just the cooperation, they are helping each other."

Hillsborough residents had asked for a crackdown on drug activity during the search for a new police chief.

For the first time in at least five years, the Town Board approved a new position for the Police Department. As of Jan. 1, a second narcotics investigator position will be funded at an annual cost of $56,850.

Birkhead said that position will be filled early next year.

The department also has organized several traffic checkpoints in recent months. "Just from reading the reports, it's amazing how many people don't have [driver's] licenses or you smell marijuana from the car," Peterson said.

Mayor Tom Stevens, who took office last week, said good police work sometimes happens behind the scenes. "Now we're seeing some work that the police department has been doing for some time is paying off," he said.

Staff writer Cheryl Johnston Sadgrove can be reached at 932-2005 or cheryl.johnston@newsobserver.com.

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