On August 9, the Westminster Police Department manned a "DRUG ENFORCEMENT CHECKPOINT" on I-25. Last week, WPD Investigator Trevor Materasso confirmed the operation, but didn't have many details. Now, however, he's able to provide the specifics. Officers issued tickets or made arrests in just over 20 percent of the total stops, uncovering a potpourri of drugs and cash in the process.
According to Materasso, the checkpoint took place from 6:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on the 9th, with officers stationed near the 144th Avenue exit. During that five-hour period, "we made contact with 32 different vehicles," Materasso says, "and we issued five summonses, or traffic tickets."
Four of these citations were for "individuals driving under some type of restraint," he continues. "That could be for an alcohol-related offense, a license that had been revoked for excessive points of a variety of other reasons why a driver's status was listed as restrained or suspended." WPD reps also "issued a petty municipal summons for possession of marijuana with an expired medical marijuana card."
In addition, the WPD executed two drug-related arrests. In one, Materasso says, "we recovered just over sixteen grams of ecstasy and 29 Xanax pills, and a little under $1,000 in cash." And the second? "It was for over four-and-a-half pounds of marijuana and close to $3,500 in cash." The information provided to Materasso makes no mention of a medical marijuana claim related to the latter bust, and that's standard procedure if MMJ is offered as a defense.
Does the Westminster department see these results -- five tickets and two arrests over a five-hour period -- as evidence of success? Will more such checkpoints be put in place down the line?
"We're definitely in an evaluation period," Materasso note. "There has not been a decision about setting up another similar drug interdiction kind of contact, but it's obviously something the police department wants to be familiar with and aware of. Drug trafficking and drug sales and those kinds of things are changing. When the criminal element figures out how we investigate certain crimes, they modify how they do things so they don't get caught. So we're constantly in the battle of adjusting and changing our tactics -- trying to be proactive in the way we indentify these crimes and handle them."
Look below to read our previous coverage.
Original item, 12:30 p.m. August 12: On Tuesday night just shy of midnight, a Westword reader was traveling on Interstate 25 near the 144th Street exit when he saw an electronic sign that read: "DRUG ENFORCEMENT CHECKPOINT AHEAD (Canines in Use)." Also nearby -- a squad car and a cone zone.
What's the story?
Figuring out the outfit involved wasn't easy. The Adams County Sheriff's Office, the Colorado State Patrol and the Drug Enforcement Administration had no knowledge of the operation, and calls to the North Metro Drug Task Force weren't returned.
Finally, however, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Stacy Stegman confirmed that the sign in question belonged to CDOT -- and that the agency had allowed it to be used by the Westminster Police Department, whose public information officer, Investigator Trevor Materasso, provides some background.
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"It was specifically a drug interdiction checkpoint set up similar to a DUI checkpoint," he says, adding that "this was the first drug-specific interdiction that we set up in this format. Some of our officers recently were trained on some new methods to use in doing drug interdiction -- so this is something we haven't done before."
At this point, Materasso doesn't have many details from the operation, beyond noting that several tickets were written for what he calls "traffic-related issues." In addition, he says, "we did recover a small amount of cash that was associated with drugs -- marijuana and ecstasy."
Materasso says more information should be available next week -- at which point we'll update this post. In the meantime, consider the checkpoint to be a sign of the times.
More from our News archive: "Pit bulls at center of two shootings by Colorado police officers in two days."