February 2, 2024
In 2023, Arkansas State Police (ASP) saw a significant rise in illegal drug seizures during traffic stops compared to the previous year. ASP’s Interstate Criminal Patrol (ICP) identified 138 significant seizures in 2023.
The amount of cocaine seizures showed a significant increase, with a total of 353 pounds confiscated in 2023. The street value of the amount of the confiscated cocaine is more than $15 million. These seizures represent a 146% increase from the 2022 seizure of 143.35 pounds of cocaine by ASP.
“These substantial seizures should serve as a powerful warning to anyone engaged in unlawful activities on Arkansas highways,” said ASP Col. Mike Hagar. “State Police will remain vigilant and committed to keeping the roads safe for law-abiding citizens.”
In June, ASP made the largest cocaine seizure of 2023 on Interstate 40 in Lonoke County. During a search of a truck hauling a track hoe near Lonoke, they discovered 146 pounds (or 66 kilograms) of cocaine. The estimated street value of the illegal drugs is over $6.5 million. The two suspects were transporting a Caterpillar excavator with hidden compartments in the frames of the trailer. As a result of the investigation, the rig, trailer, and excavator were all confiscated.
Illegal marijuana seizures were up by more than 2,000 pounds year to year. 10,386 pounds were seized in 2023 compared to 8,015 pounds in 2022. Seven out of the top ten illegal marijuana seizures came out of Crawford County, with the largest confiscation from a traffic stop on Interstate 40 in January. During that stop, 939 pounds of illegal marijuana and 141 pounds of illegal THC products were uncovered.
The second-highest seizure of illegal marijuana was in December of 2023. ASP found 869 pounds of high-grade illegal marijuana after a traffic stop on Interstate 30 in Lonoke County. The street value of that illegal marijuana was more than $3.6 million. The vehicle’s driver, a 33-year-old from Brazil, was driving from California to Miami. The suspect was charged him with Drug Trafficking, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and other charges.
Fentanyl seizures were down but still substantial (65 pounds in 2022 to 46 pounds in 2023). In June of 2023, ASP found 50,000 Fentanyl pills with a street value of over $2 million. The driver and a passenger were taken into custody after a Trooper stopped the vehicle for an improper lane change between Protho Junction and the Interstate 440 interchange. During a search of the vehicle, the Trooper seized 11.83 pounds or 5 kilograms of Fentanyl.
Cash seized during traffic stops increased from 2022 to 2023. Last year, ASP confiscated over $1.4 million, compared to $996,000 in 2022. In September, during a traffic stop on Interstate 40 in Lonoke County, Troopers discovered 18 vacuum-sealed bags of cash hidden throughout a tractor trailer, which led to the seizure of over $545,000.
In 2023, ASP confiscated various illegal THC products, including 187 pounds of marijuana edibles, more than 30 pounds of THC wax, and 1470 illegal THC cartridges from a driver who claimed he was driving through Arkansas from California to Georgia.
Additionally, in October of 2023, ASP and the Arkansas Tobacco Control seized an unprecedented number of illegal cigarettes. The seizure involved 32,671 packs of untaxed cigarettes worth more than $311,000. A Trooper stopped a cargo van on Interstate 40 near Carlisle and discovered numerous cartons of contraband cigarettes during a search of the cargo area.
A 35-year-old from of El Paso, Texas, was charged with Possession of Untaxed Tobacco and Unauthorized Use of Another Person’s Property to Facilitate Certain Crimes.
Other illegal drugs seized in 2023 include psilocybin mushrooms, 1 pound of black tar heroin, 420 bottles of promethazine, and 56 pounds of methamphetamine. During other traffic stops in the past year, ASP confiscated a variety of pharmaceutical drugs, including Xanax, Hydrocodone, and Ketamine, and 21 illegal weapons.
Seized drugs are sent to the Arkansas State Crime Lab for analysis and then stored during prosecution. After cases are adjudicated, the drugs are transported to an incinerator for disposal. Seized weapons are destroyed, later used by law enforcement, or sold at public auction.
Seized cash that is determined to be forfeited goes to prosecuting attorney in the jurisdiction where it was initially seized. Prosecuting attorneys decide how the money is distributed.
Sometimes, money is shared between multiple agencies. When ASP receives funds, it is used to purchase equipment and provide training. 20% of seized funds go to the U.S. Marshals Service in every federal forfeiture.