Mulberry was "saturated" with law enforcement officers this past week as 10 different agencies came together to root illegal activity from the city.
Mulberry police partnered with officers from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division, state patrol and K-9 units, the Arkansas Parole Office, the Crawford County Prosecutor’s Office, the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department, the 12th-21st Judicial District Drug Task Force, and the Fort Smith Police Department K-9 unit to make 13 felony and 4 misdemeanor arrests in two days, said Mulberry Chief of Police Shannon Gregory.
"This operation began several months ago," said Mulberry Mayor Gary Baxter. "It was a coordination between all of these units for the purpose of reducing any illegal activity in Mulberry."
On Feb. 7, 12 individuals were arrested on charges of possession of illegal drugs and paraphernalia, intent to deliver, intent to manufacture, felon in possession of a firearm, and outstanding warrants.
Also during the operation, four arrest warrants were cleared and two juveniles were taken into custody and returned to their guardian, Gregory said.
"During the operation Saturday night, there were between 30 and 40 law enforcement officers in town," Gregory said.
Another five suspects were arrested Monday on drug charges, including maintaining a location for drug sales.
Officers conducted 12 "knock and talks" to question individuals suspected of illegal activity, and 12 parole searches, Gregory said.
"Many of them gave consent to come in and talk to them; the purpose was just to let them know what’s going on and let them know we’re watching," Gregory said. "Of course, if they’re on parole, then parole officers can just go in anytime. They don’t have to have a search warrant or anything."
Monday night’s arrest stemmed from a search warrant that was granted based on information from an ongoing investigation, Gregory said.
During his mayoral re-election campaign last year, Baxter received several requests to "clean up the town," and tips on suspected drug activity, he said.
Baxter reached out to Crawford County Prosecutor Marc McCune, who worked with Gregory to coordinate the interagency effort, he said.
Gregory came together with other agency heads in November to discuss the operation, he said.
"We sat down, we all talked about the problem and how to fix it, and we decided we we’re going to have this saturation last Saturday," Gregory said.
But the group operation could not have happened without the various agencies’ trust in Gregory, Baxter said.
"People need to realize, when you get the magnitude of this many at this level of involvement in such a small community, it takes respect and trust," Baxter said.
Baxter said the "clean up" effort is part of his campaign to build Mulberry as a healthy, safe, family-friendly community. And the operation is ongoing, he said.
"These people need to be worried; they need to know Mulberry is not the place to practice illegal activity of any kind," Baxter said. "Any individual who may be involved in illegal activity should lay awake at night and wonder if they will be contacted tonight, tomorrow or in the months ahead, but one day they will come through your door."
"It’s not over by a long shot," Gregory added.