by Victor Lopez
WEST TEXAS--Suspected drug traffickers in Andrews weren't the only ones to end up in handcuffs. Wednesday's drug sting was part of a much bigger bust.
Authorities say a lot of time, planning and money went into making Operation Deliverance the success it turned out to be.
But to paraphrase the U.S. Attorney General, they may have won the battle, but the war wages on.
"Through these and other law enforcement efforts, we are striking at the heart of criminal smuggling operations," U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, said.
In a press conference on Thursday, Holder praised the efforts of everyone involved in this project over the last 22 months, "More than 300 federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies provided investigative and prosecutorial resources in this investigation. I want to thank the many prosecutors, investigators and law enforcement officials who contributed to Project Deliverance's success."
One of the key agencies was the Dug Drug Enforcement Administration. Dante Sorianello, Midland's Resident Agent in Charge, is very pleased with what went down over the last two days.
"I'm very happy with the results. The first thing being the coordination among all the law enforcement agencies. From a DEA standpoint, we were working with the task forces that have state, local and other federal agents working within them," Sorianello said.
Operation Deliverance has been going on for almost two years, but just Wednesday, alone, close to 3,000 officers and agents in 16 states, tracked down and arrested 429 people.
Not to mention the countless pounds of heroin, pot and other illegal drugs that are now safely off the streets. Over $5 million in cash was also confiscated.
So, what does all that mean for West Texas?
According to Sorianello, "Many of the individuals who were arrested were your local street dealers and mid-level narcotics traffickers, who were having an impact, selling narcotics to the people in our neighborhoods and the children in our neighborhoods."
But the fight doesn't stop here. Holder and Sorianello agree, there's still a lot to be done. Operation Deliverance is just the beginning of the next phase of the battle against illegal drug smuggling.
"We're also putting drug traffickers and those who threaten the safety of our communities and the security of our borders on notice," Holder said.
"No, it's never the end," Sorianello added.
As a result of Operation Deliverance, President Barack Obama is asking for an additional $500 million in supplemental funds to help law enforcement activities and protection along the U.S./Mexican border.