Operation Stonegarden is a Department of Homeland Security program, managed by the Border Patrol, which grants funds to other law enforcement agencies to enhance and strengthen border security.
A Safford police officer working Operation Stonegarden in the area south of US Highway 191 responded to a 9-1-1 call last Wednesday at approximately 3:00 p.m. A call was received by dispatch regarding a fight in progress at the Red Barn Trailer Park near Swift Trail. The Safford officer responded to the call along with Graham County deputies.
When the officer arrived at the scene of the fight, he found that everything was under control. While he was on the scene, however, he made contact with a woman he has known through previous contacts. The officer spoke to the woman about an ongoing shoplifting and trafficking in stolen property case.
After talking to the woman the officer walked past her vehicle and saw a black open bag that had a large silver spoon and several orange and white needle caps. The black bag was sitting on top of the center console of the vehicle. In the backseat of the vehicle, the officer saw a diaper bag and a young child’s carseat.
The officer asked the woman if she was diabetic. She said, ‘no.’ The officer then asked why there were syringe caps in the car. The woman said that a friend of hers is diabetic and that could be where the syringes came from. The woman then reportedly changed her behavior and began acting very nervous and frantic. She kept talking and pacing around.
The officer confronted the woman about having needles in a vehicle where a small child sat. The officer asked the woman for permission to search the car for needles and potential drugs. The woman said, ‘no.’ The officer asked why she was opposed to the search. She said that she was not sure what – if any – drugs might be in the vehicle. She then asked the officer if she could ask her friends before her car was searched. The officer agreed.
The woman then went to a trailer next to her vehicle and asked several people inside if there were any drugs in the car. She then told the officer, “there is probably some foil in the diaper bag in the back seat.”
The officer again asked for permission to search the vehicle. The woman asked what would happen if she didn’t consent to the search. The officer told her that due to her behavior as well as the information she had provided, she would be detained and a K-9 unit would be called to assist. The woman said, “I guess whatever you find in there will be mine.”
The officer began searching the rear seat area of the vehicle. Inside the diaper bag the officer found a piece of tin foil and a plastic pen tube. The plastic was melted and inside the tube was some brown residue. The officer recognized the items as paraphernalia used to smoke heroin. The diaper bag also contained some diapers and a cold milk bottle for an infant.
While waiting for a K-9 unit another woman approached the officer and asked if she could retrieve a cell phone from the vehicle. The officer agreed and asked the woman if she had been riding in the vehicle and she said, ‘yes.’ She was detained along with the woman who owned the car while the officer continued the search.
The officer asked the two women about the drug paraphernalia. The vehicle’s owner said that the paraphernalia was hers and she would “own it.” After talking to the women a while longer, the second woman admitted that the paraphernalia was hers and said that she used them to smoke heroin. The other woman also admitted to being a habitual heroin user.
A K-9 unit was brought in but the dog did not alert to anything else on the vehicle. Both women and the vehicle were released.