Omaha DEA cracking down on I-80 drug pipeline

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- Interstate 80 has been known as a drug pipeline, but according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, it's changing.

Nebraska State Troopers said they confiscated meth, cocaine, heroin, pills, marijuana, and three loaded handguns during a traffic stop Tuesday, July 23, 2019, near North Platte. (Nebraska State Patrol)

A pickup makes a wide turn and accelerates rapidly. A Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy sees it and pulls over the driver.

Law enforcement in Nebraska makes more than 430,000 traffic stops in a year. In this training scenario, the driver's story isn't making sense and is suspicious; so Deputy Eads brings out his partner, Axel, to check out the truck.

"In Omaha, our biggest problem with drugs is methamphetamine. We still have heroin and counterfeit pills, but meth is the biggest problem,” said Agent Salter.

Special agent in charge Richard Salter leads the Omaha division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"The country is flooded with meth,” said Salter.

Meth is so cheap, dealers are pushing the drug outside of traditional markets.

"In Phoenix, you can buy a pound of meth for $900. That's unheard of. That what we used to pay for an ounce in 2012,” said Salter.

In the recently released National Drug Threat Assessment, the DEA points out how the opioid threat continues at epidemic levels and the spread of methamphetamine is worsening.

"Most of the drugs coming into the country are from Mexico,” said Salter. "We're treating it like a social problem and we're trying to control something we can't - because our borders are wide open."

The DEA applauds the work of the State Patrol, local sheriff, and the police when it comes to drug seizures and arrests along the Interstate-80 and Interstate-29 drug pipeline. But the leadership of the Omaha division proposes to take it to the next level by sitting in a room together more often with those on the front lines and sharing the intelligence database.

"If we can work collaboratively with state, local, and federal and share Intel and connect the dots - instead of taking out one or two distributors - we can take out a whole organization. We can take out a distribution cell or a gang,” said Salter.

Those more frequent collaborations are expected to begin soon, with a number of ideas already on the table.

"Everyone is on the same page when it comes to drug trafficking,” said Salter.

Another point made in the drug threat assessment is Chicago street gangs are expanding their market by coming to Omaha.