With airport security levels at all-time high, drug smugglers are turning to alternate methods of trafficking.
Durant police discovered as much last month when the department arrested Eric Wilson, 23, Nov. 18 on board a Greyhound bus with 50 grams of marijuana, scales and cash as the bus prepared to depart from the city's bus station.
Durant officers had recently undergone training in drug interdiction at Midwest Counterdrug Training Center in Iowa.
â€œThey took the class because we are the first decent sized city north of the Red River,â€ Durant police Lt. Carrie Wyrick said. â€œWe are a source city that is in the vicinity of Dallas and they wanted to try something new.â€
Greyhound Bus Lines spokeswoman Bonnie Bastian said the company cooperates with all law enforcement operations. The company also has trained drivers to look out for suspicious people who might be carrying drugs or weapons.
Smuggling drugs on buses is nothing new, former Albuquerque, N.M., narcotics officer Samuel Candelaria said. Candelaria worked in narcotics for 20 years and taught the class the Durant police officers took. He has also written a book on drug interdiction that is used by police departments across the country.
Candelaria said because bus terminals don't have the level of security found at airports they can be attractive to smugglers. There have been several drug busts on buses that have made news over the last several years, including an August 2009 bust in Louisville, Ky., that netted 250 OxyContin pills and 625 grams of codeine and another in March in Pittsburgh that netted 99 bundles of heroin and five pounds of high grade marijuana.
â€œSmuggling by bus has been around since the mid 1970s and continues to the present day,â€ he said. â€œMany of these organizations like to take the road less traveled and in many cases that may be buses or trains coming out of small communities.â€
Officers are trained to look for verbal and physical cues. In the Durant bust, officers came on board and simply began talking to people. Those on board were offered a chance to leave before officers began talking to passengers. In the case of Wilson, he appeared nervous to officers and didn't make direct eye contact when speaking to them, police said.
â€œYou talk to people to observe their behavior,â€ Candelaria said. â€œIf you were a drug courier, nervousness is very difficult to suppress. I teach officers to pay attention to what they are doing and watch them in the environment they are in. After awhile they learn to pick out people.â€
The officers have a right to board the bus even without probable cause as long as the bus line gives them permission, University of Oklahoma law professor Randall Coyne said.
â€œProbable cause is a precise legal standard,â€ he said. â€œWhat you find far more often is they are excused from a lack of a warrant because of various circumstances that arise or because they have been given permission to be there.â€
Candelaria said he expects buses and trains will continue to be attractive to smugglers in the future. Though personal cars and trucks are also in high use, buses are cheap and easy in many cases.
â€œThey look for the best way to get from point A to point B and sometimes the easiest method of conveyance is a bus,â€ he said. â€œThe good thing is the companies are very cooperative and have an interest in helping police make arrests.â€