State police have quietly intensified their drug smuggling enforcement effort by searching commercial buses, particularly those that travel on Interstate 95, a major route used by drug traffickers.
So far this year, police have arrested scores of bus passengers and have confiscated firearms, large amounts of drug money and about 35 pounds of cocaine. Most of the drugs have been discovered in baggage, but in one case a bus passenger was arrested after 2 ounces of cocaine was discovered in a teddy bear he was carrying.
The bus crackdown began about a year ago. Before that, narcotics officers had concentrated mainly on cars and trucks as a major transportation source for drug traffickers. State police said some traffickers switched to commercial buses to avoid the crackdown on motorists.
Recently, the bus crackdown has yielded some notable results, according to state police.
For example, on June 12, troopers boarded a bus on I-95 in Harford County with a dog trained to detect drugs. Police found a duffel bag containing a kilo of cocaine worth several hundred thousands of dollars. On June 11, a dog sniffed out a pound of cocaine concealed in baggage on another bus, and a passenger was arrested.
About a year ago, state police intelligence sources indicated that some traffickers had switched to commercial buses, said Trooper J. Scott McCauley.
State police reacted by focusing their attention on buses, especially those on I-95, a major route to New York City, which is a hub of drug activity.
"They [traffickers] are coming and going through New York, that's the key," Trooper McCauley said.
The state police crackdown is modeled after one started in Dade County, Fla. Trooper McCauley said the procedure has withstood court challenges in Florida.
Elizabeth P. Dunn, a spokeswoman for Greyhound-Trailways Bus Lines, said the company does not object to the searches.
"We always do what we can to cooperate with law enforcement && officials," she said. "We absolutely don't want anyone transporting illegal goods on buses. We feel most of our passengers feel the same way. They want to feel safe and secure."
Mrs. Dunn said police agencies generally contact the company after they board a bus.
Last year, state police drug enforcement officers made 1,402 stops on highways, at airports, at train stations and at the Port of Baltimore and other facilities on waterways.
The stops resulted in more than 2,000 arrests and in the confiscation of 592.08 pounds of marijuana, 135.85 pounds of powder cocaine, 18.08 pounds of crack cocaine, 5.12 pounds of heroin, 728.5 dosages of pharmaceutical drugs, 1,484 dosages of LSD and $798,227 in cash, according to the state police.