HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit executes nearly 150 warrants a year, making even more arrests. The constant raids aren't meaningless; in fact, they paint a better picture of a lesser-known problem for the area
A WMBF News team went with that that unit as they made one of many major arrests following months of investigation.
For the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit, this Tuesday started bright and early. By midway through the afternoon, the group's work wasn't done.
"The apartment he is in is on the far right side," described one of the unit leaders. "They want you to approach from the far left."
This pow-wow in an Horry County field is the culmination of more than six months of investigation.
The men behind it come from departments in Horry and Georgetown counties along with bigger departments like the State Law Enforcement Division and the FBI.
WMBF News kept everyone anonymous to protect their identities.
"Nothing indicates that we are going to meet much resistance but there are things in the background to be cognizant of," said one officer.
The target in this case is a 40-year-old suspected drug dealer living in a nearby Forestbrook Apartment complex.
Officers have their search warrants, and they have their plan of how things should go.
"We determined the best course of action with this one was a search warrant at the offender's residence to see if there is any more evidence," described one officer on the drive to the location. "Typically these guys store their drugs and money where they live."
After all plans are in place, the unit pulls up to the apartment complex, gets in position and wastes no time.
The door of the apartment complex is unlocked. Officers yell they have a search warrant and storm through the door.
Within seconds, officers have Tyrone Brown in handcuffs. They soon find what they expected: heroin, money, and even a loaded handgun.
Pictured: Tyrone Brown. (Source: J. Reuben Long Detention Center) Click image for full story.
Nothing compared to what they found that morning, when the DEU arrested Chris Smith and Leon Murphy in a Loris home.
Pictured: Left: Chris Smith, Right: Leon Murphy. (Source: J. Reuben Long Detention Center) Click image for full story.
There, officers seized dozens of bags of drugs, and a collection of firearms more likely to be seen at a gun show.
Pictured: The drugs and guns seized from Smith's residence. (Source: DEU) Click image for full story.
That's still nothing in comparison to the week before, when DEU officers made seven arrests after an extensive investigation into well known drug traffickers the '24/7 Boyz.'
Related Story: Bond denied for 7 charged in '24/7 Boyz' drug investigation
"That's one of the most difficult investigations we've taken on in the last ten years," explained one of the Unit's leaders.
The DEU officers say the group's changing tactics and adjustments made the investigation as tough as it was.
What makes it harder is a renewed demand for a drug many thought was a thing of the past.
"What I've seen over the past ten years is heroin has made a huge comeback and it has a lot to do with prescription medications," He said. "Most people don't want to go to a needle but because that addiction is so intense, and very painful when they start getting sick, there is no alternative."
Officers say that comeback isn't just happening in the back alleys of Horry County.
"We find more and more that the communities we go into don't fit any profile. We are everywhere. We go into the poorest communities, we are in some of the nicest communities in the area."
For DEU officers, the solution to the problem is stopping that cycle at the source - no arrests for the users, no raiding the little guys, and no wasting time or resources.
"We are trying to get to the guys that are making a living and a profit off of those hooked on it."
The unit knows that task is easier said than done, but busts like these are a start.