Sweep nets drugs valued at over $6K

Michael Young

Law enforcement officials swept through the area Thursday and Friday in an operation that seized an estimated $6,700 in illegal drugs, almost half of it heroin, and led to the filing of 46 related charges.

Operation Valley Venue III was aimed at the drug trade and other illegal activity in Frederick, Shenandoah, Warren, Page and Clarke counties and Winchester. It marked the third year in a row that law enforcement agencies in several counties and municipalities launched a crackdown in late April.

The numbers this year included a total of 73 charges — felonies, misdemeanors and traffic summons. Special Agent Jay Perry of the Virginia State Police said enforcement activities included controlled drug purchases, search warrants executed at residences, the serving of outstanding arrest warrants on suspects and patrols in high crime areas.

The estimated street value of the drug seizures was less than the $7,921 recorded during last year’s Valley Venue. This year’s operation included the seizure of 13 grams of heroin, the equivalent of .458 ounces, most of it on a single night in Frederick County and Winchester.

“I will tell you the gram weight was up there,” Perry said. “That’s a lot of heroin for one night.”

Virginia Hendricks

Heroin, which has been a top priority for area law enforcement officials for the last two years, continues to flow into the area from Baltimore. Perry said it is too soon to know whether the civil unrest in Baltimore sparked by tensions between police and the African-American community may affect heroin trafficking in this area.

Perry said he has noticed a recent trend of heroin users from the Northern Shenandoah Valley obtaining the drug from larger dealers in Baltimore and bringing larger amounts back to the area. The amount of deaths from heroin and other opiate-based drugs stands at nine so far this year.

Authorities have recorded only one overdose death attributable to opiate-based drugs since early March. Perry said he wasn’t sure how much of a role law enforcement efforts may have played in the lull in overdose deaths. Emergency medical care and drug treatment and prevention programs may also be making a difference, he said.

“I’d love to take credit for it,” Perry said. “The Valley Health system is having an impact. The community has really gotten behind it. The community is working really hard to curb this thing.”

A complete list of those arrested in Valley Venue was unavailable Tuesday. The 30 charges filed in Frederick County and Winchester was the highest among the jurisdictions participating in Valley Venue.

The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday identified several defendants from its jurisdiction who were arrested in connection with Operation Valley Venue on a variety of charges involving possession and sale of illegal drugs.

They are: Michael Shane Young, 29, 1820 Mine Bank Road, Strasburg; Virginia Relena Hendricks, 48, of 45 Millertown Road, Edinburg; Gregory Scott Heckler, 32, of Broadway; Bruce Alexander Duncan, 27, of Winchester; Casey R. Carter, 21, of Winchester.

The five defendants bring the total Valley Venue arrests in Shenandoah County to 11 after the identification of six other defendants on Monday. Maj. Scott Proctor of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office said others may soon be charged.

“I know there are some additional warrants still to be served,” Proctor said.

The agencies participating in Valley Venue included sheriff’s offices from Shenandoah, Frederick, Warren, Page and Clarke counties; police departments in Front Royal, Strasburg, Luray, Winchester, Woodstock and Mount Jackson; the Virginia State Police; the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and state probation officers.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com