By Dennis J. Carroll
SANTA FE, N.M (Reuters) - Some 84 residents are facing drug charges in Roswell after a massive investigation into what local, state and federal agencies are calling a major drug ring, officials said Friday.
Some 150 agents descended on the remote city in the southeast corner of the state this week and netted 14 high-powered firearms, in addition to thousands of grams of drugs purchased over the course of the three-month investigation, officials said.
The weapons included four AK-47 assault rifles, four AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, and six semi-automatic handguns, according to a joint statement from New Mexico U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit,
As of early Friday, 66 people had been arrested.
A DEA spokesman said the total street value of the drugs had not yet been estimated.
Roswell Mayor Del Jurney told Reuters that city leaders hope the arrest will also reduce other crimes in the community of about 50,000.
"There are a lot of burglaries and break-ins and things that were going on that were a direct result of the drug use that was taking place," Jurney told Reuters. "We don't consider Roswell to have a real serious drug problem, and we didn't want it to get that way."
Gonzales said the investigation was prompted by Roswell community leaders, who asked his office to "to work with them in tackling the escalating drug trafficking and gang related violence in Chaves County, and to help bring about positive changes for the people who live there."
Authorities said the drugs seized in various undercover buys during the investigation included 2,446 gross grams of methamphetamines, 861 gross grams of cocaine, 338 gross grams of heroin and 133 gross grams of marijuana, as well as 748 gross grams of pharmaceutical narcotics. A gross gram is the weight including packaging. Also seized was $17,452.
The investigation was headed by a special DEA Mobile Enforcement Team from El Paso, Texas, and Chavez County narcotics officers. An array of other federal, state, tribal and local authorities also were involved.
(Edited by Karen Brooks and Greg McCune)