Polk County Drug Cases Reach Crisis Levels
Drug crimes have plagued central Florida for decades. As traffickers and cartels make millions selling their products, people develop addictions that lead them into despair and crime.
Sheriff Grady Judd is determined to shut down trafficking by working aggressively to combat the drug trade locally and cooperating with other law enforcement agencies in central Florida and throughout the United States. These efforts have borne fruit, as the actions of Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives have resulted in several major drug busts.
However, Sheriff Judd acknowledges that some of those who suffered the most from the drug trade are those who have become addicted. He continues to support the efforts of the Polk County Prosecutor’s Office and Problem Solving Court to provide effective treatment to people whose substance abuse issues have led them into trouble with the law, while also holding them accountable.
Huge Quantities of Drugs Move Through Polk County
A two-year investigation culminated in August 2022 with the arrests of 85 suspects on charges related to drug trafficking. The investigation began when Polk County detectives seized a pound of methamphetamine from a home in Winter Haven. The detectives continued to make drug buys from dealers in the area and learned that a local organization was smuggling drugs from Mexico, flying them out of LAX in checked baggage, and into the local area.
The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force secured authorization to wiretap several suspects, resulting in the identification of a large network of people involved in drug trafficking.
Detectives executed search warrants on multiple locations in Polk County, other Florida locations, and even California. They seized 268 pounds of methamphetamine, 31 pounds of cocaine, and significant quantities of other drugs. According to Sheriff Judd, the .68 ounces of fentanyl the officers seized is enough to kill 70,000 people.
Coming Down Hard on Fentanyl
Fentanyl is a lethal substance that dealers have been adding to other illegal drugs in recent years. Fentanyl is so dangerous that even a microscopic amount absorbed through the skin could cause death. The Polk County sheriff’s office is focusing resources on shutting down the fentanyl trade to preserve the lives of local citizens.
In January 2023, Sherriff Judd brought murder charges against two Polk County men who sold drugs tainted with fentanyl to a man who later died of a lethal overdose. A search of one suspect’s home found a quarter-pound of fentanyl, according to a statement issued by the Sheriff’s office.
In October 2022, the sheriff’s office, working with the Central Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, seized 11 pounds of fentanyl, enough to kill 2.7 million people, according to Judd. Detectives from the sheriff’s office bought several kilograms of fentanyl from a supplier in Mexico as part of the investigation.
Lethal Secondary Impacts of the Drug Trade
People who use and sell illegal drugs often become involved in other illegal activity, sometimes taking lives in the process. In October, 2022, 21-year-old Deputy Sheriff Blaine Lane was killed after being shot in a confrontation between sheriff’s officers and a person wanted on a warrant.
Cheryl Williams, who was charged with second-degree murder, previously served nine years of an 11-year sentence for trafficking in methamphetamine. A small quantity of the drug was found in the suspect’s residence.
Sheriff Judd Makes Drug Eradication a Priority
Illegal drug trafficking causes a lot of pain for communities, and otherwise-innocent people can get caught up in a sting operation. Many of these people need drug treatment, not hard criminal sentences. Sheriff Judd says he intends to continue to deploy the resources of the Sheriff’s office to make Polk County as uncomfortable as possible for drug dealers.