Shield yields drugs, weapons

NILES – Ken Criswell said he never saw anything like it.

A city police captain, head of the department’s detective bureau and a cop for more than 29 years, he was on the road with other officers as he participated in a series of saturation patrols that took place in Trumbull County on Friday and Saturday in conjunction with the Shield program of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Criswell joined 14 officers who were on the street in Niles for the patrols, including the chief, and went from traffic stop to traffic stop backing up troopers and city officers.

”I can’t remember us ever doing something like this before,” Criswell said.

The program was also run in Warren and Newton Falls, and deputies from the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office also took part, as well as U.S. Marshals, the Trumbull County Adult Probation Department and county prosecutor’s office, the patrol’s Critical Response Team and agents from the Ohio Investigative Unit.

The goal was to look for drugs, guns and drunken drivers, Criswell said. Motorists who were not found to have any serious violations were issued warnings so that the officers could go back and concentrate on more serious offenses, Criswell said.

Lt. Brian Holt, head of the patrol’s Southington post, said that on Friday, the patrols netted 15 DUI arrests, 12 other felony arrests and 13 misdemeanor arrests, and a total of 28 warrants were served. Five weapons were seized and a stolen car was also found, Holt said.

”It was a very productive evening,” Holt said.

Figures for Saturday’s activity are to be announced Monday, he said.

The Shield program has been run by the patrol for two years and it comes to communities that have a high rate of felony, DUI and drug arrests, Holt said. Holt said the planning for this weekend’s operation began in January, and Criswell said from his department’s end, they began planning for it two months ago.

At one stop Friday, Criswell backed officers serving a traffic warrant for a man at the Royal Mall apartment complex and was greeted by a man he arrested 25 years ago, who shook his hand.

Later, near the McKinley Library, he stopped a pickup truck because a man was riding in the bed of the truck instead of in the cab. The driver said his insurance was current but the card he was carrying expired in April. He allowed them to go on their way, but said the passenger in the bed must sit in the cab and the driver had to bring his proof of insurance in on Monday.

He and the city’s K9 officer, Todd Mobley, backed up a state patrol stop off of Robbins Avenue of a man who has been in trouble before over drugs. The man would not allow the dog to search inside the car, although the dog did sniff around the outside of the car and also sniffed the passenger’s side seat, because the passenger left the door open. Nothing was found, and the man and his passenger were allowed to continue on their way.

Later, he and Mobley backed up another stop farther down Robbins Avenue near state Route 46, where troopers found a small amount of marijuana in the car and handcuffed the driver and placed him in the back of a cruiser as other officers searched the car more thoroughly.

Holt said the Shield program has run for two years but this is the first time it has ever come to Trumbull County. He said the first night went well, primarily because of the cooperation of the different agencies involved.