"Heroin Check" (still via John Vibes/YouTube)
“Heroin Check” (still via John Vibes/YouTube)
“Heroin Check” (still via John Vibes/YouTube)

DWI checkpoints are a staple of holiday time road enforcement. In Harford County, however, police at a checkpoint were looking for harder stuff.

As part of a wider drug operation, police set up heroin checkpoints on Tuesday. The four checkpoints had signage warning drivers. However, not all drivers were required to stop. The cars that were pulled over were “observed committing some type of motor vehicle violation,” police said. John Vibes of the Free Thought Project got video:


Taken together with the wider drug sting, police said they made ten arrests, and seized 20 pounds or marijuana, “opiates and prescription pills” and drug paraphernalia. The police’s statement didn’t specify that they seized heroin, but opiates could fit into that category. They also issued nearly 150 warnings, and 18 repair orders.

No matter the results, the checkpoint has come under fire. Writing at Free Thought Project, Vibes called the checkpoint “a blatant violation of everyone’s rights, even people who think that they have ‘nothing to hide.’” David Rocah of the American Civil Liberties Union told WBAL-TV that the checkpoints sounded like an “end around on the Fourth Amendment,” which requires reasonable suspicion to pull someone over.

Police say they were trying to combat heroin trafficking in Harford County, saying that the County contains alternate routes for traffickers looking to avoid I-95. At the same time, they said they were looking to address heroin use in the county, which has resulted in 180 overdoses this year.

Gov. Hogan declared a heroin “state of emergency” in Maryland earlier this year, and U.S. officials have acknowledged the country is facing an epidemic. So it’ll be interesting to see if officials embrace the Harford County Sheriff’s Office’s actions, or distance themselves from the effort.

Stephen Babcock is the editor of Technical.ly Baltimore and an editor-at-large of Baltimore Fishbowl.

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