Cat and mouse: How VB deputies catch contraband after receiving thousands of pieces of mail each year

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Virginia Beach deputies arrested a woman they say was trying to mail drugs into the city jail.

Deputies tell 10 On Your Side Paige Walker was allegedly hiding drugs in the letters to inmates. Now, Walker is behind bars, too. 

It was the latest arrest stemming from a process that keeps the sheriff’s office very busy.

“In this job, it is good to be nosy,” said Capt. Tina Mapes.

Paige Walker

In the belly of the Virginia Beach jail, there’s one room that is rarely seen, but is the center of a never-ending cat-and-mouse game between deputies and inmates.

“I know they (inmates) are working on finding different ways to circumvent the system,” Mapes said.

“It amazes me the ingenuity with inmates, or how they come up with ideas on how to get things into a facility,” Lt. Lois Thomson said.

That starts with the mail room.

“The average inmate receives seven pieces of mail per day,” Thompson said.

The jail has a population of about 1,400 people.

“People try to mail things in that can be used as weapons and drugs,” Mapes said.

The list of creative ways to get drugs in is endless. They could be found hidden behind stamps or attached to a letter. Staff always has their guard up.

“They are very vigilant about their jobs and they are very meticulous about their jobs, because they know they are the front lines to stop any contraband,” Thompson said.

Recently, deputies say they broke up a plan to smuggle Suboxone into the facility. Deputies say they got a tip that it might be coming through the mail room in December.

“Without using some extra tools we have available to us, we wouldn’t have seen the Suboxone,” Mapes said.

The biggest tool is K9 Candy, who’s been on the hunt with the office since 2014.

“She’s a rock star, we’d like to say,” Mapes said.

With Candy’s help, deputies were able to make an arrest. They say Walker tried to mail in the drugs several times to inmates Michelle Perkins and Cheyene Helgren.  Each has been charged, and now Walker sits in jail herself.

“The message is: Don’t mail contraband into the jail, because we will prosecute,” Mapes said.

Other jails, such as the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, recently decided to photocopy all pieces of mail so the inmates don’t get the originals.

Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle said that is an option in his jail, but it could cost city taxpayers more money.

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