News 12 at 11, September 10, 2007
JOHNSTON, S.C.-- More than 60 officers from nine different agencies descended on the small South Carolina town of Johnston. 14 people now in jail after Operation Clean Sweep sweeps the area of alleged drug dealers and users.
It's an operation headed in part by Johnston's new Police Chief Chris Aston. He's been on the job 14 months and they've already had more than 20 drug related arrests, 14 in the last few days.
Chief Aston says he means business. "I promise you this, if you're going to sell drugs here, you're going to pay for it."
Loretta Johnson's family learned that lesson the hard way. Her 25-year-old son Kiplang McKinney was one of 12 people arrested Thursday night. He's in jail now, facing two felony drug charges.
"Yes I'm disappointed, sad, it hurts, it really do hurt. Yes I raised him better than that, brought him up in the church." expresses Loretta. But her son, like so many others, seem to have fallen into the town's growing drug problem.
"Johnston had more drug problems then most small towns it's size." explains Chief Aston.
Pictures of seized drugs and guns from routine traffic stops over the last few months help to tell the story.
Chief Aston says they're examples of the growing problem. "This is my hometown. I live here. I have kids here. The citizens I serve and I love to serve were looking to me to take some of the poison off the streets."
But, a small town like Johnston needed help putting Chief Aston's ideas in motion. He runs an eight man department, with no narcotics division. So he spent more than six months working with one from Edgefield County Sheriff's Office, and Operation Clean Sweep was born. 60 officers from agencies in three different counties (including the Edgefield County Sheriff's Office, Saluda County Sheriff's Office, Aiken County Sheriff's Office, Aiken Department of Public Safety, Trenton Police Department, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, South Carolina Highway Patrol, ATF) helping to round up the suspected drug dealers and users.
"We're not playing with this anymore. Something's going to be done and it's going to be done quick. Don't think it's over with." warns Chief Aston. Chief Aston says he expects to arrest five or six more people in the next few days. Of the ones already in jail, 12 of the 14 are charged with distribution, facing anywhere from two to seven felony drug charges. Most drugs in the case include cocaine, crack, and marijuana.
Chief Aston adds another drug sweep is already in the works.