More than 80 law enforcement officers from multiple agencies spread out across Brownwood and other areas in Brown County Thursday to serve 57 narcotics warrants, part of a 20-month undercover investigation into drug trafficking.
    Thirty people had been taken into custody when Brownwood Police Chief Terry Nichols, Brown County Sheriff Vance Hill and Early Police Chief David Mercer addressed the media late Thursday morning at the Law Enforcement Center about Operation METHodical.
    The number had already gone higher when the three finished talking to reporters, as teams of officers continued seeking people named in the warrants.
    The investigation began in January 2016 when investigators with the three agencies combined efforts to focus on methamphetamine trafficking in Brown County, Nichols said.
    During the operation, investigators purchased and seized methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and various prescription drugs including Ocycodone, Hyrocodone, Alprazolam, Clonazepam and Carisoprodol, Nichols said.
    Drugs seized ranged from a couple of pills sold to an undercover officer, all the way up to “lots of of grams of methamphetamine,” Nichols said in the LEC training room, where photos and names of suspects in custody, and those still sought, were on display.
    Suspects ranged from local distributors to those with direct ties to Mexican drug cartels, and all are alleged to be traffickers, he said.
    “We are trying to  make a statement here in Brownwood and Brown County that this is unacceptable,” Nichols said. “The illegal drug trade in this county will take a hit. It’s taken a hit this morning.”
    Continuing to describe the operation, Nichols said investigators uncovered the organizational structure of multiple drug trafficking networks.
    “These (suspects) are the ones that are putting illegal drugs in our kids’ hands, in our neighbors’ hands,” Nichols said. “These are the people that we get phone calls about all the traffic at their houses from concerned neighbors.”
    Ten of those named in the warrants are on probation for previous offenses, and several were on parole from previous convictions, Nichols said.
     In addition to the drug charges, several of the defendants are also charged with weapons offenses, evidence tampering, evading arrest and prescription fraud, with additional charges pending.
    Participating agencies, in addition to the sheriff’s office and Brownwood and Early police departments, were the Brownwood City Marshal’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, Brown County constables, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Lake Patrol, District Attorney’s Office, Brown County Attorney’s Office, Brown County Adult Probation Office and Child Protective Services and Special Investigations Division.