09/20/2010

Andrew HawkesHighway Drug Interdiction
with Andrew Hawkes

Building an interdiction unit from scratch

In most states, the proceeds your law enforcement agency gains from interdiction seizures can be used to fund the department

When I started out in interdiction, we were just a small 18-man Sheriff’s Department. We had no established interdiction unit and no money to fund one. The entire agency was compromised of patrol — we had no specialized units for anything, save a couple of detectives. No one really had time for highway interdiction, and the mindset back in those days was that interdiction “was the highway patrol’s responsibility.” Problem with that was that the highway patrol didn’t know how to do it either. There was one exception — one very talented and insightful midnight patrol sergeant at the sheriff’s office. He had the knack, the intangible “hunch factor” of an interdiction officer. As a young officer I watched what he did and listened to the advice he gave me, and I was able to develop the same skills as my veteran mentor (thanks Sgt. Mitchell).

Do you work in a relatively rural area, with a major interstate running through it? Is your agency strapped for cash and manpower? Do you or your agency wish you had the funds to establish a highway drug interdiction unit? Well, the beauty of it is that you can establish a full time unit if you have the determination.

Thanks to the illegal drug trade and our state and federal laws, we officers not only get to arrest the drug smuggler and destroy the dope, but we get to seize his/her assets that were used in the commission of the offense of smuggling illegal narcotics. We’re talking about cars, cell phones, laptops, cash — anything of monetary value that was used or gained in the commission of the illegal activity. The seizure of assets is not only limited to the highway arrest. The further the investigation is worked back, the further you might be lead to search warrants of the smuggler’s home, business, bank accounts, etc.

In most states, the proceeds your law enforcement agency gains from these seizures can be used to fund the department or an interdiction unit. You can purchase vehicles, equipment, canines, canine accessories and even pay for training.

You may be saying to yourself that many of the cars you find dope in are pieces of junk, not worth seizing. Maybe this is true, but if your are seizing four or five “pieces of junk” a month, that each may only bring $500 at the auto auction, at the end of the fiscal year your agency could be sitting on about $25,000 in your seizure fund. Adding up the small victories of each interdiction arrest can have big rewards towards the future funding of a full time interdiction officer and/or unit.

If your agency needs help with working the highway case back, because of manpower, do your best to establish relationships with surrounding agencies, and the state and federal officers that do have the resources to help you.

Become friends with your local prosecutors and meet with them and explain to them that seizures — however small — add up over time and will provide your law enforcement agency with much needed funds to continue the war on drugs in your jurisdiction.

Get out on that highway, be aggressive. There’s dope, guns, cash and vehicles that need to be seized. And don’t forget about all the dopers you gonna get to put in jail. We as cops have the best job in the world. Check out the list of resources below that can help you.

Stay safe and happy hunting.

About the author

Lt. Hawkes is a 21-year police veteran. In addition to his years of highway drug interdiction, Lt. Hawkes has worked in patrol, K9, investigations, narcotics and administration. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Dallas Baptist University and is a graduate of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. He has been the recipient of both State and Local awards. His book, Secrets of Successful Highway Interdiction, which can be purchased here, www.highwaydruginterdiction.com, contains eleven chapters on Highway Drug Interdiction.

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