Officers learn trafficking tactics in multi-agency conference - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Officers learn trafficking tactics in multi-agency conference

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LEE COUNTY, GA (WALB) -

Law enforcement officers say criminals are on the roads in South Georgia every day.

Many of them are transporting drugs or weapons.

Wednesday the Lee County Sheriff's office hosted dozens of law enforcers from four states for training on how to spot those criminals and what they're hiding.

This is the first time this concealment training has been held in Georgia. Law enforcement officers got the latest information on what crooks are doing to hide contraband in vehicles.

In particular, a typical Honda car gas tank was shown, but drug runners altered it so that half is a hidden compartment.

"This thing can hold maybe about $150, 000 in cash an depending on how they shape a kilogram, about 15 kilos of cocaine or meth or heroine," said Global Counter Smuggling Training Consultant Mike Tamez.

This is the kind of concealment area that crooks are making in cars to move contraband.  Like drugs, money, weapons, even weapons of mass destruction. One of the trainers at today's session in Leesburg is with a narcotics task force in Texas, dealing with  Mexican drug cartels daily.

"They are limited by only 3 things," said Tamez. That's time, imagination, and money. And when you talk about the cartels in Mexico, in the area where I work, all 3 are limitless."

These trainers taught what they have seen lately across the nation to Georgia and Florida officers.  Because of heavy travel on U.S. 82 and Highway 19, Lee County Sheriff's officials wanted their deputies to get the latest training.

"We just know criminals travel from place to place and they have to use highways to do it," said Lee County Sheriff's Office Lt. Colonel Chris Owens. "So we looked at it to see what we could do and how we could best equip our officers."

They saw different hiding places, from simple things like false walled coolers, to high techs hiding places like inside truck engine heads.

"They turned what would normally be a V-10 with the factory baffles," said Tamez. "And they've created a compartment, taking advantage of the space under the baffle and the valley pan of the vehicle. And inside they hide their contraband."

The training is intended to give officers an idea of what to look for to spot hidden compartments inside vehicles, even how to spot smuggling vehicles from all the other cars on those busy roads.

Some of the officers said the training made them think back about traffic stops they have made and wonder if they missed something. They're confident they will find concealed contraband next time.

Lee County Sheriff's officials say they haven't seen major problems on our highways, but they want deputies trained to spot smugglers coming through the area.

Copyright 2013 WALB.  All rights reserved.

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