Teller County Battles Growing Drug Menace With New Task Force

~ by Trevor Phipps ~

Due to the growing local fight against illegal drugs, and especially illicit marijuana-grow operations, the Teller County Sheriff’s Office has assembled a task force to combat this continual narcotics threat. 

The newly formed Teller County Narcotics Team (TNT) has already gotten off to a preliminary start, grappling with a handful of drug busts. Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell announced the formation of the group at a recent county commissioners meeting.

 However, authorities caution that the team is not yet in full action because they are still receiving vast amounts of training.

According to Teller County Undersheriff John Gomes, the members of the team that consist of law enforcement officers from the sheriff’s office, the Woodland Park Police Department, the Cripple Creek Police Department, and the Drug Enforcement Agency, have been training for four to five months.

 The officers are learning how to deal with several different types of situations involving illegal narcotics operations. “We have been running a lot of scenario-based training and we have covered a lot of the basics,” Gomes stated.

 During the crackdown of illegal marijuana grow-ops that started in the beginning of 2018, the sheriff’s office trained many of their deputies on how to deal with such situations. However, now the local law enforcement agencies are focusing on more than just catching marijuana growers who vastly exceed the amount of plants that are legally allowed at residences.

More than just a crackdown against pot growers

In fact, in recent months Teller County has received growing reports of a revival of the methamphetamine surge that nearly crippled parts of the region a decade ago, more heroin cases and other more serious drug epidemics.  

“It’s above and beyond the marijuana crackdown,” the undersheriff said. “The marijuana was an integral part and we targeted that. Now we are going to focus on things like meth, cocaine, heroin, and all of the other illegal drugs that are out there. We are not going to discriminate, we are going to go after everybody that is doing illegal drugs. It not just for marijuana it is going to encompass the rest of the stuff whether that’s illegal prostitution or that’s illegal narcotics. We want to send a clear message that this sheriff’s office will not allow people to continue illegal activities. We’re going to go after them period. I don’t care if it’s illegally growing marijuana or illegally distributing meth or cocaine, we’re going to target you and come after you. That’s our job, we need to make sure our children are safe and that our community is safe. ”

 He said that the team will be tip-based just like their marijuana crackdown of 2018 was. He said that once the team is up and running that they would notify the public that they are accepting tips that relate to any type of illegal drug activity.

 Even though the members of TNT are not yet fully trained, they have still been involved with a number of cases involving illegal drugs. The first time the team got involved was when they investigated a case involving a man distributing marijuana laced with methamphetamines to middle school students. The case resulted in a local man getting indicted by a grand jury on federal felony charges.

 Recently, the team was involved in a raid on a Teller County residence that involved a butane hash oil or BHO lab. According to Gomes, members of TNT were attending training on how to process BHO labs just before the tip about the illegal activity came into the sheriff’s office. He said that literally the day after they got out of class, the team was called out on the field to help investigate the marijuana concentrate laboratory.

 Currently, the narcotics team still has some training to complete before they will be working in full force. However, part of their training has been the work they have done on the field thus far. Gomes said that he expects TNT to be operating at full capacity within the next few months.

 Gomes went on to say that the purpose of the team was to fill in where regular patrol officers cannot.

These days patrol officers do not necessarily have the time to aid with the increase in illegal narcotic cases. Once TNT is up and going, patrol officers can receive the team’s assistance for situations involving illegal drug operations.

 For example, most patrol officers are not trained to process BHO labs. If local law enforcement officers respond to a scene and notice a hash lab, they now are able to call in the trained local narcotics force to take over the investigation. The members of TNT are now trained on how to safely dismantle a BHO lab among other things related to illegal drug operations including surveillance techniques and how to determine if a tip received is valid or not.