Daylong drug raid nets 757 arrests

By Rebecca Catalanello, Times Staff Writer
Published March 8, 2008

A statewide drug sweep netted more arrests in one day this year than during one week in 2007, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

In all, 757 people were taken into custody Wednesday during a coordinated effort between the FDLE and 72 local and state law enforcement agencies, including several in the Tampa Bay area.

In 2007, the same effort lasted a week and resulted in greater quantities of drugs confiscated, but just 739 arrests.

"We're pretty pleased with the results for one day," said Kristen Perezluha, an FDLE spokeswoman. The agency could not immediately explain the increased number of arrests this year.

In the Tampa Bay area, 258 people were arrested, with Tampa police making 56 arrests, more than any other agency. The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office charged 38; St. Petersburg police, 19; Clearwater, 20; Pasco Sheriff's Office, four.

Drugs seized statewide included 10.34 pounds of cocaine, 156 pounds of marijuana, 856 marijuana plants, 23.45 ounces of methamphetamine, 31.78 ounces of crack and hundreds of prescription pills. Officer also seized $1.16-million in currency.

Perezluha said the sweep was led by the National Alliance of State Drug Enforcement Agencies as a national effort to highlight the importance of a federally funded program in assisting the day-to-day operations of drug enforcement.

Funding for the grant program, called the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Program, dropped 67 percent this year, according to the FDLE. Attorneys general, including Florida's Bill McCollum, are calling on Congress to restore the program's funding.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or 813 226-3383.