WISE, Va. — Wise County Sheriff Grant Kilgore and Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp announced today that multiple law enforcement agencies have launched a major drug-related mass-arrest operation within Southwest Virginia. The effort represents the culmination of a lengthy investigation by the Wise County Sheriff's Department, with assistance from the Southwest Virginia Regional Narcotics Task Force and its member agencies. The operation is being dubbed "Operation COVID Clean-up."
On Wednesday, November 10, 2021, officers from the Wise County Sheriff's Department conducted a "mass arrest" of over fifty individuals who were recently indicted by the multijurisdictional grand jury and regular grand jury in Wise County with over 100 charges for numerous drug related offenses. The arrests stem from an extensive investigation involving illegal drug activity, specifically the dangerous schedule II controlled drug methamphetamine.
Officers from the Southwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force, Virginia State Police, Norton City Police Department, Coeburn Police Department, Town of Wise Police Department, St. Paul Police Department, Big Stone Gap Police Department, Lee County Sheriff's Department, Scott County Sheriff's Department, and Wise County Sheriff's Department joined forces for the operation today in a coordinated effort.
Commonwealth's Attorney Slemp said, "Early this morning, law enforcement officers from across our region launched an operation to clean up our streets. As we speak, they are still in the field, making arrests, and continuing with their efforts. Together, we are taking a very public and immediate action against the trade of illegal and dangerous narcotics, specifically methamphetamine. Meth is a dangerous, highly-addictive drug with scary side effects. We will continue our efforts by aggressively prosecuting these cases."
Slemp continued, "The COVID-19 pandemic shut down our court system, made it difficult for law enforcement officers to gather evidence to disrupt the illegal drug trade, and then left us with a backlog of cases that we are still working diligently to resolve. We are calling this operation COVID Clean-up because we are determined to clean up our community, restore hope, hold offenders accountable, and we won't let COVID stop us from our mission."
Sheriff Kilgore said, "I want to give credit to the law enforcement officers who are working today to keep drugs off our streets. I am proud to be a part of this effort and thankful for the hard work of all the officers involved today. We pray for their safety as they continue this important work, making arrests, and bringing offenders to justice."
Charges from today's operation include drug related crimes, including distribution of a controlled substance, possession with intent to distribute drugs, prescription fraud, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon while simultaneously possessing controlled substances illegally. Of the charges, almost seventy-five percent involve the distribution or possession of the Schedule II drug methamphetamine.
As of 3:00 p.m., law enforcement officers are in the field continuing their efforts to bring other wanted individuals to justice. A list of those individuals arrested is not available as of the time of this news release.