“We will not tolerate drugs in our city,” said Chief Alfonzo Williams. “You won’t know when we are coming, but we will catch and prosecute you.”
On Friday evening, the Waynesboro Police Department partnered with more than seven other agencies – totaling about 60 officers – to execute search warrants for criminals who had sold drugs to undercover officers since January.
Six people have been arrested in Operation Lightning, and a small amount of drugs, a few firearms and some money were confiscated. Williams said the operation was more about sending a message than taking contraband off the streets.
“It was a reminder we are still here,” he said. “And a way of showing the citizens of Waynesboro that we are listening and hear their complaints about drugs near their homes.”
Since January, Williams said they have seen a spike in crime, including car break-ins and burglaries, which the department believes is directly related to drug use in the area.
Williams became chief in February of last year and said he “hit the ground running,” by swiftly cracking down on drug dealers.
When the department started to see the familiar crimes creep back up during the last few months, they started planning Operation Lightning.
“Drug use has always been high, as it is in any small town,” Williams said. “After this operation, the dealers and users will find it more difficult to find the drugs and will be more cautious about selling. They will be concerned about who is working with police and who is not. They will take their business elsewhere, where it is less complicated.”
Williams also wanted to show Waynesboro residents how closely they work with surrounding departments. By bringing in officers from sheriff offices in Burke and Richmond counties, the Thomson and Wadley police departments, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and others, the drug dealers would realize there are few places to hide, he said.
Sgt. Jerry Blash, Waynesboro’s chief investigator, said Lightning was unprecedented for Waynesboro in recent years. Since beginning plans in January, narcotics and investigators have worked closely with informants to get the warrants they needed.
When it was time to execute, seven teams of at least eight officers spread out across Waynesboro and rushed in simultaneously, making all the arrests without incident.
It might have been the first sting operation of its kind, Blash said, but will not be the last.
“The next one will be bigger,” he said. “We will have more information and more evidence.”