Pantera Negra, the biggest meth bust in Northwest Arkansas took 118 pounds of methamphetamine off the streets in Northwest Arkansas. But why would a large, organized drug trafficking ring set up in Springdale? Police Chief Kathy O’Kelley says it's about location.
"Hide in plain sight,” says Chief O’Kelley. “So it's a good stopping point; Easy access to 44, easy access to 40. It's just a good location to be off the beaten path."
Chief O'Kelley hopes her new narcotics unit may make drug dealers think twice. In February, she added two officers who only investigate illegal drugs, a move she says is long overdue.
"You would have officers saying, ‘Hey, we know drugs are being dealt from here. We know this is happening here. But were busy we don't have the time to sit on that house, we're missing it,’” Chief O’Kelley says.
So far the new team has made nearly 40 drug-related arrests.
Springdale officers worked with the Drug Enforcement Agency to bring down Pantera Negra. And officials there say meth is an issue across our area, not just in Springdale, even with Pantera Negra leaders behind bars.
Tommy Flowers heads the DEA office in Fayetteville and says busting Pantera Negra isn't the end of drugs in Northwest Arkansas.
"It's a big sigh of relief for us that those particular individuals are off the street,” Flowers says. “But there are others out there that are just as big as them that are still selling their meth here."
He says right now they are investigating another group, just as large as Pantera Negra.
The meth is not made in Northwest Arkansas, but in Mexico, then brought to the area through California and a larger cities in Texas, like Dallas.
"In Mexico where most of our meth comes from they don't have restrictions on the ingredients for the meth,” Flowers says. “Instead of getting you know one or two boxes of pseudoephedrine and make a little bit of meth they are getting a tractor trailer full of it."
Flowers says there's a growing demand for meth in Northwest Arkansas and as long as that's the case there will be people willing to supply it. He hopes education, starting with kids in school, can change that.
"As long as there are people wanting to make money they are going to try to get here to make a profit,” Flowers says. “And you know if you've got people to get here and say I don't want it then that's probably our biggest tool that we could have."