LARGO — The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office narcotics diversion task force has been named the Investigative Unit of the Year by a national nonprofit organization focused on curbing prescription drug abuse.
The award was presented to the agency last week at the annual conference of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators in Indianapolis, Ind.
The Pinellas unit was chosen based on Operation Pill Poppers, a two-part effort this year aimed at arresting people wanted for doctor-shopping, obtaining controlled substances by fraud, and conspiracy to sell and traffic various pain medication.
The award comes on the heels of the fourth round of Operation Medicine Cabinet, which allows residents to drop off unwanted or unused prescription drugs for safe disposal. In conjunction with other local law enforcement agencies, Pinellas deputies in August collected more than 800 pounds of prescription drugs.
The agency also has partnered with Pinellas County schools, Narcotic Overdose Prevention and Education Task Force, and LiveFree! to educate residents about dangers of prescription drug abuse.
In response to an increase in arrests and deaths attributed to prescription drugs in Pinellas County in recent years, the agency has assigned additional resources to the issue, increasing the number of detectives assigned to such cases from two to 13. The task force also includes four members from other agencies to assist in multijurisdictional cases.