Large-scale multi-agency sting targets heroin dealers in Forsyth County

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Several agencies took part in a large-scale sting operation targeting heroin dealers and users in Forsyth County Tuesday, as a result of a series of 11 overdoses in five hours at the end of June.

“It’s frustrating because we know that all of this is preventable,” said Sgt. David Rose, of the Winston-Salem Police Department’s Special Investigations Division.

Winston-Salem police were joined by officers from Kernersville, Forsyth County deputies, the DEA, ATF and Homeland Security to conduct the sting, targeting parking lots and shopping areas they identified as hot spots for heroin transactions.

“We’re going to tenaciously stay after these drug dealers, these people that are putting the poison on the street,” Rose said.

On an exclusive ride-along, FOX8’s Michael Hennessey joined investigators as they traveled to Clemmons, then Winston-Salem, before other areas in the county. Before noon, offices spotted a SUV full of people at a gas station near Shattalon Drive. One occupant of the vehicle met with an unidentified person in another SUV, while another occupant began dumping unknown items into a trash can.

The suspicious activity prompted officers to follow the vehicle.

“The list is infinite, but there are certain things that you’re going to look for to identify, things that are unique to a drug transaction. Once you identify those things, you key in onto that person, that vehicle,” Rose said.

While some officers surrounded the vehicle in question, Rose returned to the trash can, where he discovered several used needles.

“The public health risk to having needles discarded is tremendous,” he said. “There was a box in there for the safe disposal of needles, yet you had a dozen or so needles that weren’t even in the box.”

Minutes later, the people in the car – who had scattered amongst a Winston-Salem shopping center – began returning to the vehicle. At that point, officers conducted a stop.

“They’ve got to know that we’re there, in the parking lot, where they’re plying their wares,” Rose said.

The stop resulted in a couple misdemeanor citations for paraphernalia. While it was not a major bust, the team FOX8 was with covered only a small fraction of the operation, which ran for the majority of the day.

“This is just another day in our effort,” Rose said.

The ultimate goal of the operation was to seek out the dealers and the users, stop both parties and put the dealer in prison, while providing the opportunity for treatment for the user.

“We’re going to continue to fight this fight and we’re going to target the people that are selling drugs,” Rose said.