(Tribune Photo/Michael Wilkey)
Attempting to send a message to probationers and parolees alike, members of Poinsett County's law enforcement community, along with the Poinsett County Prosecuting Attorney's office and state authorities arrested 15 people on 25 different charges last Friday in a probation sweep that netted arrests all over Poinsett County.
After a meeting in Harrisburg to go over strategy, members of the Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas Department of Community Correction, Poinsett County Sheriff's Department, along with members of the Fisher, Harrisburg, Lepanto, Marked Tree, Trumann and Tyronza Police Departments fanned out to arrest as many people in as little time as possible.
The issue of probation and probation searches serves as an important function of law enforcement, said Poinsett County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Constance Grayson. Grayson told the Tri-City Tribune that many defendants who plead guilty to felony crimes often are placed on probation and must meet certain terms of that probation, to avoid going to jail.
The standards include avoiding the use or possession of illegal drugs, alcohol and firearms, as well as not committing other crimes. The person also agrees, as part of the probation to allow searches of a residence, vehicle or their person. Grayson also noted that each of the 15 arrested last Friday were subject to conditions set by the Probation Office and the court for probation and that law enforcement had reason to believe that the person was violating the law.
Locally, the Marked Tree Police Department announced the arrests of three individuals on criminal charges, stemming from the searches. According to Det. Mark Robinson of the MTPD, Shaun Morgan, 25, of Tyronza, Phillip Maddox, 28 of Marked Tree and Gregory Tribble, 23, of Marked Tree were arrested Friday. Morgan was arrested Friday afternoon on Fleeing, Endangering the Welfare of a Minor, 2nd Degree, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and Possession of Methamphetamine. Morgan allegedly led the MTPD and Poinsett County Sheriff's Department on a four-mile pursuit, which ended at the bridge on Capps Road outside Marked Tree. Maddox was arrested Friday on charges of Possession of Methamphetamine and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, as a result of a search of a residence in Marked Tree. Tribble was arrested as a result of a search of his residence, which netted six 30-packs of beer, a half-gallon of Gin and a half-gallon of Cognac, a violation of a suspended sentence by the court. All three appeared before Poinsett County Circuit Judge Victor Hill Monday for a probable cause hearing. Probable cause was found for each and bond was set for each of the three. For Morgan, bond was set at $10,000; Maddox's bond was set at $5,000 and Tribble's bond was set at $25,000. According to police, all three individuals each face a revocation hearing to either revoke their probation or bond from prior arrests.
The Tyronza Police Department announced the arrest of a Tyronza man on criminal charges as a result of a search. According to Police Chief Curtis Swan, the TPD arrested Robbie Drace of Tyronza Friday afternoon on felony charges, stemming from the search. Drace is charged with Theft by Receiving, Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Bond was set at $10,000 and Drace will appear in Poinsett County Circuit Court on Sept. 27. According to police, Drace will also face a revocation hearing as a result of the arrest.
The Lepanto Police Department announced the arrest of four individuals as a result of the searches. According to Police Chief Raymond Oakes, last Friday at around 3:30 p.m., the LPD, along with Constable Larry Dewailly conducted a probation search at a residence on Thompson St. in Lepanto. The LPD found 14.5 ounces of marijuana, which led to the arrest of three people. Arrested were Demetrius Buchanan, 21, of Lepanto, Kelvin Hale, 26, of Lepanto and Kuron Hurt, 20, of Osceola. Buchanan was arrested and charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver, Instrument of a Crime and Violation of Probation. Hale was arrested and charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver and Possession of an Instrument of Crime. Hurt was arrested and charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance (marijuana). All three appeared before Poinsett County Circuit Judge Victor Hill Monday for a probable cause hearing. Bond was set for Buchanan at $10,000, Hale at $5,000 and Hurt was cited for Lepanto District Court on Sept. 8. Later that day, the LPD arrested Velma Reel, 40, of Lepanto on a Possession of a Controlled Substance charge, stemming from a probation search in Lepanto. Reel was released on her recognizance, pending a Sept. 8 date in Lepanto District Court.
Poinsett County Prosecuting Attorney Constance Grayson told the Tri-City Tribune that searches like those last Friday send a wake-up call to anyone currently on probation. Grayson said, "In getting probation, you sign a contract with the state. You agree to do certain things. Some people believe that when they leave court and get probation, they think they have skated through." Grayson added that the state will aggressively seek revocation of probation for anyone who is breaking the law.
Local reaction was favorable to last Friday's probation searches. Lepanto Police Chief Raymond Oakes told the Tri-City Tribune that doing these searches states "that we want people to know that they must abide by their probation." Marked Tree Police Chief Jim Crum told the Tri-City Tribune that probation searches are an everyday thing with his department, but as with any search or bust, officers must be careful in doing their job. Tyronza Police Chief Curtis Swan told the Tri-City Tribune that the searches "were a well-coordinated effort by county, state and local law enforcement." One area police chief told the Tri-City Tribune that the searches had to be done with as many arrests as possible in as little time as possible. The police chief stated that residents in his community have an intricate communication system to alert when police are in the area. The police chief stated, "They are better than Ma Bell."