Drugs going through Utah continue to increase, public safety officials say

May 30, 2018, 10:26 PM | Updated: 10:33 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Without a doubt, Randy Riches knows he has a dangerous job. But, when you’re a sergeant on the Utah Highway Patrol’s Drug Interdiction Team, there is a bit more risk.

“There are a lot of bad guys out there who need to be caught and taken off the streets,” he said.

Sgt. Randy Riches

Riches deals with drug traffickers who often are willing to do whatever it takes to get away. Even still, he feels it’s important to catch them for society’s sake.

“We have a lot of people who are addicted to these substances. You have people, who are making the drugs, trying to push them,” said Riches. “It hurts families, and it hurts all of us when you have people who commit robberies and other crimes to feed their addictions.”

Sgt. Riches helping a motorist

Riches has also noticed something else when it comes to drugs. In past few years, it seems to be getting worse, especially with drug trafficking.

“Legalized marijuana states have become incubators for organized crime,” said John Huber, who is the U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah.

Huber was part of a press conference in downtown Salt Lake City Wednesday, along with Utah Public Safety commissioner Keith Squires and special agent Brian Besser with the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Keith Squires (L) Brian Besser (R)

They talked about how organized crime groups have found an opportunity to make money by transporting legalized marijuana to non-legalized states.

That transport also includes heroin, cocaine, meth, and other drugs which go in and out of Utah because of its geographical location.

“Two of the nation’s most trafficked highways pass through our state,” Squires said. “Those are I-70 and I-80.”

In 2017 alone, Utah Highway Patrol troopers discovered a total of 41 pounds of heroin, 87 pounds of cocaine, 497 pounds of methamphetamine, and 4,500 pounds of marijuana.

According to the Department of Public Safety, those efforts helped disrupt 17 multi-state and six Utah drug trafficking organizations.

Information from those cases led to leads for 38 different states.

John Huber

“These people who are transporting these drugs across the country, to and through Utah, are part of organized crime syndicates,” Huber said. “It’s more than a fulltime job for us, as coordinated law enforcement professionals, to fight against the Mexican cartels who are bringing for-profit huge amounts of drugs on our highways.”

For those criminal organizations, the reward is often worth the risk. In many cases, the leaders of those organizations use runners to transport their drugs.

“They factor in cost of doing business. They expect to lose a certain amount of drugs. What they really don’t like to lose is money,” Besser said. “They write drugs off, but they don’t like losing money. We want to take both. It’s incremental in this state that we have good laws that enable law enforcement to not only seize drugs, but to seize the proceeds that facilitate that.”

The first line of defense in drug trafficking cases is often highway patrol troopers. Many of them, though, work alone and in rural areas. That can be difficult when working drug enforcement.

“We’re dealing with a multi-billion dollar enterprise here,” Besser said. “The drug trafficking organizations are, hey out man us, they out gun us, they have better technology often times than we do. We know this. Their intelligence aspects are phenomenal.”

Still, though, most troopers will say it’s worth the fight. That’s why they do the job.

“Is it a battle we’re ever going to win, is it a war we’re ever going to win? Probably not,” Sgt. Riches said. “But, if we give up, then we’ve completely lost.”

KSL 5 TV Live


Erik Alldredge, 14, stands in front of truck...

Pat Reavy,

Utah teen charged with manslaughter in rollover crash that killed his friend

A 14-year-old boy has been charged with manslaughter in connection with a rollover crash that killed one of his friends.

17 hours ago

Danny Masterson sits in an interview...

ANDREW DALTON AP Entertainment Writer

Actor Danny Masterson found guilty of 2 out of 3 counts of rape in retrial

Jurors have found "That '70s Show" star Danny Masterson guilty of two out of three counts of rape.

17 hours ago

Farr West mayor asks Memorial Day vandals to step forward, take responsivity...

Michael Houck

Farr West mayor asks Memorial Day vandals to step forward, take responsivity

Farr West officials say some kids destroyed Memorial Day celebration lights while with a group of people on Saturday.

17 hours ago

FILE - Former state Rep. Michael DiMassa, left, arrives at U.S. District Court in Hartford, Conn., ...

Dave Collins

Former Connecticut lawmaker gets 27 months in prison for stealing coronavirus aid

A former Connecticut state representative has been sentenced to 27 months in prison for stealing more than $1.2 million from the city of West Haven.

17 hours ago

Antonio Blackwell and Jeremy McFadden, left, are now in custody for their involvement in stealing b...

WHNS Web Staff

2 South Carolina men arrested after stealing $40K worth of chicken, deputies say

Two suspects are now in custody for their involvement in stealing boneless chicken breasts worth about $40,000 from Pilgrim’s Pride, according to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.

17 hours ago

Stolen truck and trailer...

Andrew Adams

Truck & trailer full of Utah couple’s belongings stolen in Colorado

A Utah couple on the way to a new life and new job in Kansas discovered their truck and trailer full of belongings had been stolen sometime Tuesday morning.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Brunette guy in headphones playing games on his desktop computer...

PC Laptops

Looking For a New Computer? Use This Desktop Buying Guide

Choosing a new desktop computer can come with a lot of questions, so we created this desktop buying guide.

Portrait of happy boy playing and splashing water in the swimming pool...

Get Out Pass

Family Fun Activities in Utah You Have to Try This Summer

These family fun activities will entertain you all summer, so if you ever feel stuck in a rut wondering what to do, refer to this guide!

Woman IT specialist in elegant suit working on notebook computer in data center next to server rack...

Les Olson

Your Complete Guide to Outsourcing IT Services

This guide covers everything you need to know about the different benefits of outsourcing IT services to meet your small business needs.

diverse group of friends dance outside under string lights...

Lighting Design

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Outdoor Lighting

Read for the most frequently asked questions about outdoor lighting to help narrow the search for your home.

Stack of old laptops with dark background...

PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...

BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.

Drugs going through Utah continue to increase, public safety officials say