Patrols hope to halt drug flow
JANESVILLE Three men rolling in a green Jeep Cherokee cruised past a police officer on Center Avenue, unaware that their vehicle’s broken taillight would turn a routine traffic stop into a drug search.
The men acted suspiciously under police questioning, and at least one of them had a previous drug arrest, leading officers to have their drug-sniffing dog, Karo, walk around the vehicle.
Karo barked, jumped and scratched at the vehicle’s passenger door, indicating drugs were in the Jeep. The dog’s reaction established probable cause to search the vehicle, where police reported finding a blunt—a cigar hallowed out and filled with marijuana.
The traffic stop was one of about a dozen stops made by street crimes and patrol officers that night during a special patrol targeting drug dealers in the Janesville area.
Janesville police and the Rock County Sheriff’s Office started the patrols in January after Rock County became part of the Milwaukee High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and received grant money to pay for the patrols.
The enforcement targets known drug routes in Rock County, including Highway 51, Interstate 90/39, Highway 11 and Afton Road, Janesville police Sgt. Jim Holford said. Most drugs entering the area follow those roads from Chicago to Rockford, Ill., to Beloit and to Janesville.
The first patrol in January resulted in 24 traffic stops, resulting 11 warnings and 17 tickets. Police reported seizing prescription drugs and 62 grams of marijuana—about 2 ounces.
Last Monday, officers and deputies met at the Janesville Police Department to discuss that night’s patrol, the second of its kind. About a dozen officers using eight marked and unmarked patrol cars were briefed before they hit the roads.
Officer Matt Schieve told the group they wanted to patrol the Highway 11 bypass and Afton Road because drug traffickers might think they’re safer routes compared to the busier Interstate or Highway 51.
“I think that’s a well-traveled path for couriers,” Schieve said.
To stop vehicles, officers have to see a traffic violation, Sgt. Charles Aagaard said while patrolling in an unmarked squad car.
After a stop, officers use police work and training to decide whether the driver’s behavior indicates possible drug violations, he said. For example, a nervous driver, the odor of drugs or illegal substances in plain view could result in a search.
Officers must get consent to search a vehicle, Aagaard said. The drug dog also can be walked along the outside of the car.
If the dog indicates drugs are in the car, police then have probable cause to search the vehicle, he said.
Officers are not profiling, Holford said, and their decisions to stop or search vehicles are based on violations and behavior.
The high number of traffic stops made during drug patrols make roads safer, Holford said. The increased police presence hopefully dissuades drug users and dealers from bringing drugs into the city.
Drug patrols are new, Holford said, and police can’t tell whether they’re working yet.
The hope is that more patrols in the future will make a difference, he said.
After officers found the blunt in the Jeep, they questioned the three men in the vehicle.
The drugs were found on the floor near the passenger seat. It was a small amount, similar to the leftover tobacco from a smoked cigarette.
Officers decided to warn the men and let them go.
The traffic stop was one of 23 made that night. Officers issued 12 citations, and they seized drug paraphernalia, synthetic marijuana and 30 grams of marijuana.