MCKINNEY — The Grayson County Sheriff’s Office joined representatives of six other regional sheriff’s offices in McKinney Wednesday to highlight the group’s combined efforts as the North Texas Criminal Interdiction Unit.

“It’s a team of specially-trained deputy sheriff’s whose mission it is to interdict dangerous drugs, narcotics, contraband and human cargo on established smuggling corridors across North Texas,” Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner said of the unit, which became operational in December. “This seven-agency initiative is the first of its kind in Texas and the United States. An integral part of this initiative is our cooperative agreement that allows our deputies assigned to the unit to have jurisdictional authority in any county that’s a member of the participating group.”

Members — hailing from Collin, Grayson, Tarrant, Parker, Wise, Hunt, and Rockwall counties — discussed the unit’s formation and the results of operations conducted in its first three months of activity. In that time, participating agents seized nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana products, $60,000 in cash, 61 pounds of methamphetamine, 9 pounds of heroin, stolen vehicles, automatic weapons, 57 arrests — including two fugitive murder suspects — and the location of two missing children.

Skinner said the sheriffs connected over the knowledge that Mexican cartels use the nearby DFW area as a staging and distribution point for illegal goods and their shared goal to stop the cartels from trafficking such items along the highways which extend out of the Metroplex and through their respective counties.

“What happens is that a large number of narcotics and illegal drugs come into the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, after they’re smuggled across the Mexican border,” Skinner said. “When they come here, they’re repackaged for transportation across the United States. That’s the reason that they call the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex a ‘hub.’ You’ll notice that, if you look at a map, what we’re doing here is covering the exit routes out of that hub.”

GCSO Sheriff Tom Watt said while Grayson County might not be as big as those counties situated closer to the Metroplex, a major trafficking thoroughfare runs directly through the area.

“One of the things that the U.S. Department of Transportation will tell you is that there’s more traffic coming out of Dallas and going into Oklahoma on (U.S. Highway) 75 than there is on (Interstate) 35,” Watt said. “The cartels, they try and move their product just like anyone in business — as cheaply as they can. And that’s the cheapest route to go and the most direct route into Tulsa, which is the next distribution point.”

Watt said a GCSO deputy and K-9 unit are currently deployed within the unit and located virtually all of the heroin seized between December 2017 and mid-March. At the local level, Watt said he was impressed with the unit’s collective efforts to seize methamphetamine, specifically because of the drug’s impact on the Grayson County Jail.

“In our community, the female prisoner population in our jail has skyrocketed,” Watt said. “The majority of that is because of methamphetamine. So that’s what I take from this operation — it’s how hard we’re hitting methamphetamine.”

But Watt explained that he is most proud of the unit’s location of two missing children, including an Austin girl, who he said was found in vehicle in Wise County with complete strangers and was likely to be a victim of human trafficking.

“If nothing else had been recovered or confiscated by this unit, that right there would still have made all the efforts worth it,” Watt said.

Skinner said other interested sheriffs and their deputies would be welcomed into the program, as the unit continues its mission to stem the flow of drugs and combat human trafficking

“These sheriff’s are taking a proactive approach to address real concerns that affect our populations and the citizens here in North Texas,” Skinner said. “Those who traffic in human beings or smuggle drugs through our jurisdictions, you need to be on notice. We’re looking for you today, tonight and tomorrow.”