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Troopers Hope Undercover Operation Curtails Drug Smuggling Along I-95

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BENSON, N.C. — A strip of Johnston County, where I-95 meets I-40, has become a concrete corridor of crime -- where drug smugglers and other criminals often transport their products.

So now, I-95 has also become the focus of a new undercover operation that's aimed at clogging up the contraband connection.

"It (I-95) is quick access where criminals can move their products simply," said Lt. Everett Clendenin, of the N.C. Highway Patrol.

Because the N.C. Highway Patrol wants to make drug trafficking less simple, the agency has opened a new office in Benson that is staffed with undercover troopers. The bulk of their job will be looking for drug traffickers.

"It saves us time because [the troopers] don't have to drive all the way back to Raleigh," Clendenin said. "We wanted a location close to I-95."

The undercover presence could produce big money for the state.

Since 2001, even without the undercover operation, the N.C. Highway Patrol has seized more than 2.5 million grams of cocaine and marijuana, totaling about $4.5 million.

And it's not just drugs and cash that smugglers transport up and down I-95.

Highway patrol officials said they also recover things from black-market cigarettes to stolen baby powder.

"We, as a patrol, want to do our part to take that criminal element off the interstate system so it's safe for everybody driving on North Carolina highways," Clendenin said.

The N.C. Highway Patrol also has an office in Winston-Salem that focuses on undercover operations for interstates 85 and 40.

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