By CHERIL VERNON
The newly-formed Palestine Police Department Drug Enforcement Unit’s recent investigations led to the arrest of six people in two separate incidents over the last few days in an attempt to crack down on the drug problem in Palestine.
The unit consists of four members of the police department, led by PPD Sgt. James Muniz.
“Sgt. Muniz’s team came together to crack down on drugs in our community,” PPD Chief Robert Herbert said during a press conference Wednesday where some of the drugs seized were put on display. “We are doing our research and doing it right. We want to take our city back and this is a small piece of it here.”
The unit has been operating for about three weeks due to concerns in the community and from city council members about the ongoing drug problem.
“We put a small dent on the problem here in town and netted quite a bit of drugs and some cash,” Muniz said during the press conference.
Acting on information from the PPD Drug Unit, members of the police department conducted a search warrant at 501 Variah St. at 6:45 a.m. Wednesday.
“There were citizen complaints from the area that lead to the PPD Drug Unit doing surveillance of the residence. After several weeks of surveillance and other investigative information, police had enough information to obtain a search warrant for the property,” Muniz said.
Police detained four people inside the residence. There were three males and one female inside the residence when police entered the residence.
“We recovered an undetermined amount of crack cocaine, ecstasy pills, marijuana and a small amount of cash. Some of the illegal narcotics were lying on a coffee table when police entered the residence. The street value of the drugs has not yet been determined,” Muniz said.
Palestine police were assisted by the narcotics officers from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Institutional Division. TDCJ officers brought the drug dogs to the scene and helped in locating drugs that were hidden in the ceiling of the home.
Those arrested will be facing a second degree felony which carries a penalty of two to 10 years in prison, Muniz said.
On Tuesday, the PPD received a tip that a tan-colored Ford Taurus would be returning to Palestine carrying illegal drugs.
At 7:50 p.m. Tuesday, officer Marcos Lara located the vehicle and conducted a vehicle stop at Church and Lacy streets for a speeding violation. Lara talked with the occupants of the vehicle and while doing so could smell the odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle, Muniz said.
A search of the vehicle produced over 2 pounds of marijuana and several bottles of PCP. Also located inside the car were over 300 packages of what is believed to be synthetic cannabinoid. These items will be forwarded to the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab for testing. The two occupants of the vehicles were arrested and transported to the Anderson County Jail and booked on felony charges, according Muniz.
The pair arrested will be charged with a second degree felony which carries a penalty of two to 10 years in prison, Muniz added.
The names of those arrested will not be released by the police department until they have been arraigned by a magistrate.
PPD Officer Ricky Baker, who is part of the Drug Enforcement Unit, said the group has been able to talk to local citizens, who are giving them information on where the drug activity is taking place.
“The citizens are getting tired of it and are letting us know what is going on,” Baker said during the press conference.