No one answered.
“Police!” another officer called.
Anniston Sgt. Jay Whisenant pointed to a second-floor window fan and said quietly, “that fan is running.” They waited. Battles knocked again.
When the door finally opened, instead of finding the 22-year-old alleged marijuana dealer the officers hoped to serve with a felony drug warrant at 5:45 a.m. Tuesday, a sleepy-eyed woman stepped onto the porch.
No, she didn’t know where the suspect was. No, he wasn’t staying there.
The warrant team members’ frustration was easy to read in their deflated stances and hurried steps back to their vehicles.
“It’s hit and miss,” Battles said. Such is the process of serving warrants, police officials will tell you, especially when tasked with arresting more than 100 people suspected of dealing and manufacturing drugs in Calhoun County.
‘Let’s go round them up’
The Tuesday drug round-up stemmed from nearly a year’s worth of undercover investigations made by the Calhoun-Cleburne drug task force. Those investigations led to the 175 warrants issued for 105 people, a press release from the drug task force said.
Fifty-five of those people were successfully arrested Tuesday, as police from Anniston, Jacksonville, Oxford, Piedmont, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Alabama ABC Board and the Talladega Drug Task Force joined up with the Calhoun-Cleburne task force to serve the felony drug warrants.
The round-up began at 5 a.m. and lasted 12 hours as six warrant teams combed over different areas of Calhoun County searching for the suspects whose names, mug shots and addresses were listed on the yellow information folders task force members assigned to them.
“Let’s go round them up,” Battles said as his team, composed of Anniston police’s Special Response and Street Crimes team members, headed out to knock on the doors of their list of West Anniston addresses.
The warrant teams successfully served 91 of the 175 warrants Tuesday.
All but one of those 91 warrants served were for felony distribution and manufacturing drug charges, statistics from the drug task force show.
Police made the majority of the arrests – 31 or 56 percent to be exact – in Anniston. Seven warrants were served in Jacksonville, six in Piedmont and four in Oxford. Warrant teams arrested the remaining suspects in Hobson City, Ohatchee, Alexandria, Weaver and Eastaboga.
The overwhelming majority of drug suspects arrested were male; Forty-four men were arrested Tuesday, while only 11 women were served with warrants. Those suspects were relatively evenly distributed across the age groups, with 18 of them falling between 30 and 40 years old. Sixteen of the suspects were between the ages of 20 and 30, and police arrested 12 people in the 40- to 50-year-old age bracket. The remainder of the suspects were between 50 and 60 years old, with only one person falling in the 60- to 70-year-old bracket.
Task force members didn’t have exact numbers on the types of drugs the warrants were issued for late Tuesday, but team commander Lt. Chris Roberson said the task force's investigations focused equally on methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana. A few of the warrants stemmed from heroin and prescription abuse cases the investigators worked this year, Roberson said.
“We had pretty well everything, from marijuana to pills to meth to crack to powder,” the commander said. “We worked it all, and we continue to.”
A thankless task
They’ll continue to launch undercover operations – and the annual drug warrant round-up that those investigations lead to – because they have to, task force members said.
Drugs in Calhoun County are thriving, officials said, and even large-scale efforts like Tuesdays sometimes feel futile to task force members who say they arrest the same dealers over and over again.
“Oh yeah, they’ll end up back on the street probably 98 or 99 percent of the time. We’ve got people sitting over here right now talking about how they need to get over to the county quicker so they can bond out and get back out there,” Roberson said from the Anniston Police Department, where people arrested Tuesday were briefly taken before being booked into the Calhoun County Jail by a special booking team.
As Battles drove his team to serve their second successful warrant of the morning – an hour after their first unsuccessful attempt at Glen Addie Homes – he called the ease with which convicted drug dealers end up back on the streets “a slap in the face.”
“But this is our job, and we’ll be out here doing it,” the investigator said.
During a five-hour period Tuesday morning, Battles’ team arrested seven people and made nearly 20 stops at the last-known addresses of the suspects they were assigned to round up. It was rare one of the eight officers assigned to Battles' team didn’t recognize the name of the suspect they were hoping to arrest or the house where they lived.
Rewarded with ‘perfect timing’
That kind of familiarity with their suspects and the places they frequent paid off right before lunch time for the team.
Just before heading back to downtown Anniston for some grub, the officers decided to check for the first suspect they missed early that morning at Glen Addie. The team headed to an apartment in the 900 block of Willow Drive, where one of the suspect's friends lived.
As officers pulled their cars into the lot, a maroon Honda Accord attempted to drive away.
But Anniston Street Crimes members Derrick Kirby and Dave Wilcox identified the suspect as the driver and, after pursuing him for a few seconds, pulled him over.
As officers cuffed the suspect, Whisenant nodded.
“It’s timing,” he said.
Back in the car and headed for one last residence check before a lunch break, Battles echoed his team member's words.
Contact Star Staff Writer Cameron Steele at 256-235-3562.