IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. - The Iredell County sheriff said tipsters are using social media to lead investigators to suspected drug dealers.
Sheriff Darren Campbell said the department has solved crimes with the help of social media in the past, but for the first time, they've launched a full-scale operation based on tips coming in online.
"They're tired of seeing the prescription drugs," Campbell said. "They tell us who they think is selling drugs in the neighborhood -- a lot about traffic, cars in and out -- and a lot of times they'll give names."
Campbell said the mounting concerns pushed him to launch Operation Southbound, targeting prescription drugs in the southern part of the county.
He said investigators spent hundreds of hours chasing leads and conducting interviews stemming from emails and Facebook tips. The information led deputies to five suspected dealers; four of them are under the age of 28.
The sheriff believes that age group is more likely to communicate with officers online, and that is helping them track down young suspects.
"They can communicate through social media easier than they can to walk into the lobby," Campbell said.
Chad Hesketh lives in the community, and he agrees.
"I think it's a lot more effective," said Hesketh.
He said he's glad someone is using social media as a tool to help weed out drugs.
"A lot younger kids are trying it now. It's kind of sad but I think a lot of people are fed up with how popular it's getting," Hesketh said.
The sheriff wants the public to know he's putting the information to good use and putting suspects behind bars.
"The public is tired of it, and they don't want this epidemic to continue," Campbell said.
Deputies arrested five people in the first round of Operation Southbound. The sheriff said it is an ongoing investigation, and he expects more arrests to come.
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