The Sheriff's Office has made drug control a top priority in the county, according to Sheriff Dave Edmunds. "We like to do our part in making sure this stuff is out of the hands of the cartels and the criminal syndicates that make huge amounts of money in these kinds of operations."
On Nov. 29, Tyler Herring, 26, from Oklahoma, was pulled over on I-80 near Silver Creek Junction for illegal lane travel. The deputy smelled marijuana while conversing with the driver, and conducted a vehicle search, according to the Sheriff's Office.
The deputy found a personal amount of marijuana in the passenger compartment and 40 pounds of marijuana in a toolbox. The deputy also found firearms and several thousand dollars in a safe within the toolbox.
Because of the firearms and large amount of marijuana in his possession, Herring was arrested on numerous felony and misdemeanor charges.
Another stop on I-80 near Wanship on Dec. 1 led to the seizure of 104 pounds of marijuana. Stephen Rondou, 55, from Wisconsin, was pulled over for a minor traffic violation. The Sheriff's Office canine indicated on the vehicle, and a search revealed the illegal drugs in the trunk, Sheriff's Office officials said.
Rondou was arrested on felony and misdemeanor charges for possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Both men were booked into the Summit County Jail, but have since posted bail.
The Sheriff's Office has seized almost 200 pounds of marijuana, several thousand dollars and assets on traffic stops within the last two weeks.
"I-80 is a drug corridor," Edmunds said. "It's a pipeline between the West Coast and Chicago, primarily. It's understood generally that narcotics travel from the West Coast to the East Coast, and the money goes from east to west. And we've been successful in obtaining both illicit narcotics and money."
Edmunds said that as a law enforcement agency, the Sheriff's Office has an obligation to do its part to curb drug trafficking.
"This stuff is going to someone's community," he said. "And the reality is, whether it's stopping here or passing through here, it is eventually going somewhere. It's going to poison some community. And I see America as all one community. I see Utah as one community."
It is the Sheriff's Office Special Enforcement Unit (SEU) that, in part, conducts pipeline drug busts.
"This is not easy stuff," Edmunds said. "When they get 200 pounds of marijuana off the road, that is excellent police work. It takes years to hone your skills to be able to do something like this. This is not something where you can attend the Police Academy and then start getting out on the road and start doing this stuff."
Proposed budget cuts are threatening to dismantle the entire unit, however, Edmunds said.
"My main concern is that if they are abolished or if I have to reduce them, the number of DUIs that are taken off the streets are going to diminish and the number of traffic collisions we see are going to increase," he said.
Edmunds asked what it would be like if every city and county in the United States took the same stance.
"Illicit drugs would be able to flow through this country unabated," he said. "And what would be the unintended consequences of that? I can tell you unequivocally what they would be. They would be increased deaths, increased overdoses and more children that this stuff would get to, ruining their lives. Drugs are hurting Summit County, and it's hurting our fellow Americans, because that stuff is going somewhere."