It’s not uncommon for the Tustumena ferry to get held up on its trips through the Aleutian Chain. Usually, it’s due to rough weather or mechanical issues.
But this Sunday, the Tustumena spent some extra time in Sand Point so local police could investigate alleged drug smuggling.
Officer Eric Tupper says he received a call from a ferry employee while the vessel was still on its way into port.
”Somebody on board was seen with what appeared to be a plastic bag with a white powder in it. They were requesting that I try to search the bags or locate the white powder because they were unable to do so.”
This isn’t the first time that Sand Point police have heard about drugs allegedly coming into the community on the Tustumena. But those tips usually come after the fact.
In this instance, Tupper says he was able to board the vessel as soon as it arrived in Sand Point. He met up with two passengers who had been flagged as suspicious and searched by Tustumena staff – which is allowed, according to Alaska Marine Highway System policies.
Tupper asked a third passenger to step off the ferry for questioning. That woman was carrying a mixed vial of pills in her luggage. With help from the local clinic, police determined that the prescriptions were valid.
“So it ended up being [that] we didn’t find any drugs. But we take any clue about drugs very seriously because of the drug problem and we’re going to investigate it as seriously as we can, and take every step we can to make sure that drugs aren’t coming [in]. And I think that we did that successfully.”
Tupper wouldn’t point to any specific cases, but he says police have been making progress on stopping illegal drug sales in Sand Point.
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