Special sheriff's unit in Dodge County targets drivers with drugs
Tom Murray reports Video by tmj4.comvideo
DODGE COUNTY - On a short stretch of Highway 41 in Dodge County, it's hard for law breakers to sneak by law enforcement.
"You're never going to stop it all, but I tell you what, you can try to interrupt what is going through," Sheriff Todd Nehls told TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray. "I'm going to use the resources the taxpayers give me to take care of society's problems and society's problems are traffic fatalities and drugs."
On a special enforcement day, five deputies and two drug dogs patrol seven miles with a mission to make as many traffic stops as possible. This is Dodge County's Drug Interdiction Unit. It is a team that unites two times each month to send a very visible message.
"If you drive through Dodge County, you're going to get pulled over. The dog's going to walk around your car," Nehls explained.
TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray and photojournalist Paul Marble rode along with Detective Kevin Day. He heads the unit.
"Dodge County is on the cutting edge with this," Day said.
Deputies pulled over a black Dodge Charger for a minor violation. The canine unit did a walk around the car and indicated there were drugs. That gave the team the legal probable cause they need to search the car.
They did not find drugs, but they did find the woman had a warrant out for a past drunk driving arrest.
"Those are the kind of people we don't want on the road," Day said.
The woman told deputies she did not want to be on camera because she works with children and does not want her boss to see her on television.
The dog gave another positive hit on a red car. At first, the driver told deputies he had nothing to hide. But while scouring his back seat, the unit uncovered evidence prompting them to immediately put that driver in handcuffs. The evidence appeared to be drug needles and a heroin cooking spoon.
"The subject admitted to using heroin in the last hour and a half," Day said.
Deputies ran the man through a roadside sobriety test. They did not find any actual drugs until the traffic stop was nearly over. Deputies say the suspect tried to stuff a tiny package of pills between the squad car's back seat cushions.
"I think the general public is maybe sheltered from the number of drugs that are coming through the county," Day explained.
Detective Day points to a California woman's arrest last December to highlight his unit's mission. Under the mattress in the back of her RV, deputies found nearly 40 pounds of marijuana in vacuum sealed bags. 30-year-old Elizabeth Lapple is set to be sentenced later this month.
"She was only the driver. She doesn't sell it. She wasn't the one who purchased it. She was simply the mule working for the drug dealer," the woman's Madison attorney, David Mandell, said. "This was a home run for the Dodge County police department. I think it was rather fortuitous."
Detective Day said his unit's effort is worth the time and expense, "if we take one driver off the road and he doesn't hurt somebody or himself."
Sheriff Nehls said the stretch of Highway 41 that runs through Dodge County is part of a primary pipeline used to move drugs from Chicago to Green Bay and Upper Michigan.