An exclusive look at how the Adair County Sheriff's Office works to curb drug activity
The Adair County Drug Coalition uses a combination of state grant money and area law enforcement to rid the community of drugs. Adair County Sheriff Robert Hardwick said his office received a $15,000 grants for the past three years, which they used to fund extra patrols that focus on drug enforcement.
At any random set time, the Adair County Sheriff's Office will have extra deputies patrolling the streets, looking for ways to curb drug activity.
"Sometimes it's on the weekends. The times vary, the days vary, so there's really no set pattern of enforcement action on it," said Sheriff Hardwick.
According to Hardwick, there are several tactics that deputies use to locate drug dealers and users.
"Make stops, do knock and talks, and do surveillance and things of this nature."
During drug enforcement hours, deputies also search high and low in every nook and cranny of the county. They drive by homes, where they've received tips that there may be suspicious activity. They search wooded gravel parking lots, such as the one located on Rainbow Basin Trail, near the Big Creek Reservation. Hardwick said tips from the community are critical to making arrests.
"They'll call us and give us tips. We follow those tips up and we have vehicle descriptions, and circumstances, that put us in a particular area. We set up surveillance, and we pretty well know what vehicles they're going to be driving and then we look for probable cause to stop the vehicle."
After stopping the vehicle, Hardwick said deputies look for probable cause to search the vehicle.
"We talk to the driver, we talk to the individual in the car. One thing leads us to the next step, to the next step and then based on what we find, based on our observations, things of this nature," said Hardwick. "Then there's some indication that there's some enforcement actions or an arrest."
According to Hardwick, probable cause is "any violation of equipment or state law that a police officer can use to make a traffic stop."
Hardwick said the drug coalition has been very helpful in the fight against meth. Because it's so mobile and quick to make, he said meth can be found just about anywhere- in someone's car, and even in backpacks.
"I don't really know if it's getting worse. They get smarter, we get smarter, and it kind of comes down to we have to get better with the tactics. Sometimes, they get sloppy with what they do, or they do the wrong thing and then law enforcement is called," said Hardwick. "You just never know what you're going to find out here."
In our four hour ride-along, I witnessed the Sheriff assist with one misdemeanor arrest, conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. According to the patrol's arrest report, failure to transfer plates within 30 days gave the trooper probable cause to stop the vehicle. Then, the trooper allegedly found marijuana in the driver's possession.
According to Hardwick, in 2011, deputies made 144 traffic stops, 22 meth-related arrests, and 18 drug paraphernalia arrests all while participating in the program.
"This helps us make drug arrests, make the community safer. "