Methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana were the most common drugs picked up by the Portage County Drug Task Force in 2018.
“Heroin dropped off the face of the earth,” said Portage County Sheriff’s Office Major Larry Limbert, who oversees the task force.
The drug task force is a combination of several Portage County police departments and the Portage County Sheriff’s Office who work together to make drug busts across Portage County.
In 2018, the task confiscated about 337 grams of heroin, or about three-quarters of a pound. In contrast, the task force nabbed more than 64,000 grams of methamphetamine, or over 141 pounds, more than 33,000 grams or 72.75 pounds of powder cocaine, 295 grams of crack cocaine or about 0.65 pounds, and more than 25,000 grams of marijuana, or about 55 pounds. Fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, including carfentanil, totaled 122 grams, or about a quarter of a pound.
He added that while there were still overdoses that occurred in 2018, the overdoses were not occurring to the extent that they had been in 2017.
The drug task force also took in about 3,731 unit doses of various prescription pills, 1,513 doses of LSD, seven grams of MDMA (ecstasy), 328 grams of psilocybin mushrooms and 68 firearms.
Limbert noted the cocaine and methamphetamine appeared to be coming from Mexico. He added while heroin was down, the numbers show there is still a huge drug problem. “I ask people, because the media says we have a heroin epidemic, when in reality, we don’t have a heroin epidemic. We have a drug epidemic,” Limbert said.
Streetsboro Police Chief Darin Powers said Streetsboro, which participates in the drug task force, has seen similar numbers as the task force. In 2018, Meth was becoming very common, he noted. “It’s because of the price. You can get meth a whole lot cheaper than you can get heroin now,” Powers said.
Heroin is still a problem, though, and one that Ravenna Police Capt. Dave Rarrick said he and his department wanted to address, due to how lethal heroin can be.
“The other two drugs (methamphetamine and cocaine) are definitely present, but we’re looking at something that causes death. That really makes an impact,” Rarrick said. “I can’t think of anything more important to address than someone’s life.” But, he added, the department takes in a substantial amount of other types of drugs, he said.
Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said low-level possession of drug felonies are usually treated differently in a courtroom than a trafficking in drugs case. Someone caught possessing drugs or with a trace amount of a drug for the first time was more likely to be prosecuted as a misdemeanor instead of a felony, he said, and also more likely to get drug counseling.
“Fentanyl can lace anything, including marijuana,” Vigluicci said. “If we find meth or fentanyl now, we’re more likely to pursue a felony and ask a person to pursue intervention in lieu of conviction.”
Intervention in lieu of conviction is a court program that helps those on probation get treatment and may result in charges being dropped and records sealed. Those accused of possession of drugs must meet certain criteria and make a motion that the court must grant to be able to do the program.
– Methamphetamine seizures in the Buckeye State are on pace to quadruple in 2018 following a record year in 2017, Ohio Highway Patrol data indicates.
“Methamphetamine will eventually eclipse heroin as the most common drug in Ohio,” said Lt. Rob Sellers of the patrol. “There’s a serious problem — it’s going to wreck people’s lives.”
Through the first half of 2018, troopers have seized more than 300 pounds of meth. In all of 2017, they found 145 pounds. That amount was 94 pounds in 2016 and only seven pounds in 2015.
“Methamphetamine is so highly available in Ohio that if you’re a drug user, your dealer has it,” Sellers said.
Almost all of the meth in Ohio comes from drug cartels in Mexico, Sellers said. Since the cartels are now creating nearly pure meth and selling it at all-time low prices, fewer drug users in the United States are making their own. Troopers have learned that most traffickers are even giving drug dealers samples of meth to pass along to drug users for free.
A trooper in Hamilton County stopped a vehicle in March to find 107 pounds of meth, the largest such seizure in the patrol’s history. Sellers said it wasn’t long ago that finding just a couple pounds of meth was considered a very large seizure.
“This is off the charts,” Sellers said.
Finding drugs while they’re still on the freeway, before they make it to communities, is the goal of every trooper. They stop a lot of vehicles, keep an eye open for abnormalities in vehicles and call drug-sniffing dogs when possible. Since 2011, troopers have take more than $421 million of drugs and contraband off Ohio’s roads.
Lt. Larry Firmi, who runs the criminal patrol unit at the patrol’s Bucyrus post, said troopers often find secret compartments in cars, trucks and even trailers. Troopers have noticed the cartels are now pressing meth into pills and disguising it as other drugs, not only to elude law enforcement, but also to make users feel like they’re using a less serious drug.
Sellers said those who use the drug are more likely to become violent than someone who has taken heroin.
“They get strung out,” Sellers said. “If they haven’t slept in 72 hours and all they’ve done is take meth, they’re not making coherent decisions. Their mind is in a different place.”
Sellers said it only takes one dose of meth to become addicted to the drug.
Anyone travelling the roads can help law enforcement crack down on meth traffickers. Sellers said dialing #677 will connect drivers to either a local dispatcher, or someone in the patrol’s state headquarters.
“You can be the eyes and ears of the community,” Sellers said.
Troopers are concerned the problem will only grow as the cartels expand, getting more and more drug users hooked on methamphetamine.
“There are cartel members in every major and secondary city in Ohio,” Firmi said. “These are sophisticated organizations.”*********************1776
Posted: Thursday, April 20, 2017 9:01 am
PERRYSBURG — Old fashioned cowboy diplomacy isn’t just a euphemism for U.S. Border Patrol Agent In Charge Matthew Grupe.
He explained the role of the patrol’s Sandusky Bay Station at Wednesday’s Perrysburg Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Originally from Western Michigan, Grupe spent 2½ years in the saddle down in Arizona.
Parts of America’s southern border are such tough country that the agents still patrol it from horseback, which figures prominently into Grupe’s current position. The Interstate 80/90 highway corridor intersects with Interstate 75, which is heavily affected by the same Mexican drug cartels that are such a problem in the Arizona desert.
“Ohio is a major criminal pass-through state with the eighth largest highway system nationwide,” Grupe said.
He said that his office has two main challenges: the vastness of his coverage area and limited resources.
“What does a secure border look like? To the border patrol, a secure border is one of low risk. It’s putting the resources against the biggest threat,” Grupe said.
“Last year was the first year we had more apprehensions from other places than Mexico,” Grupe said. Apprehensions were also associated with locations as diverse as Somalia, Liberia, Hungary, Ecuador and Romania, just to name a few.
The crimes are equally mixed, including alien smuggling cases, terrorism and weapons issues, but it is still the drugs from Mexico that fill the majority of border patrol’s time.
Statistics from 2014 showed Ohio leading the country in opioid overdose deaths, according to research by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, based on 2014 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. Accounting for 7.4 percent of the 28,647 deaths nationwide, the grim facts don’t end there. Those numbers include deaths from heroin, synthetics like fentanyl and opioid analgesics such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. In 2016, for which the numbers are still being compiled, deaths increased from 2,106 in 2015 to 3,050.
“Disrupt and degrade transnational criminal organizations by targeting efforts against priority threats” is the primary goal of the border patrol, Grupe noted in his presentation. He repeatedly stressed that border patrol doesn’t just involve controlling illegal immigration, but issues like immigration will come up during bigger projects. It’s at times like that when he has to work constructively with the appropriate government agency to get the job done.
The biggest piece of the crime pie is the drug cartels. Grupe said that Ohio has all three of the largest Mexican drug cartels actively in play: Sinaloa, Gulf and the Beltran Leyva Organization.
“Dismantling organizations in south Texas severely reduces the ability of BLO to move people to Ohio and other U.S. destinations,” Grupe said.
The Border Patrol works closely with multiple levels of law enforcement, from the local police up through the highest levels of Homeland Security. The Sandusky Bay Station does operations as diverse as marina liaison to conducting general patrols, highway operations, targeted enforcement, task force assignments, plainclothes surveillance, and water-based operations. That resource allocation doesn’t end there. They also work internationally, with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
“It’s not just the border threats, the secure border doesn’t end with the border patrol. It’s the continued partnerships, it’s the engaging and educating of the community with things going on,” Grupe said.
“Currently our stance is potentially getting more resources,” Grupe responded, additionally saying that border patrol tries to stay “apolitical.”
The Sinaloa drug cartel, once run by one of the most wanted men in the world, El Chapo, has made its way to Northeast Ohio. It’s a drug-trafficking ring moving large amounts of drugs from Mexico onto the streets.
“I don’t think people understand how significant and embedded it is in Northeast Ohio,” said Keith Martin, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Cleveland’s Drug Enforcement Administration. Authorities recently found a stash house in a Maple Heights neighborhood and another on Cleveland’s west side.
A three-year long DEA investigation, dubbed “Operation Loaded Deck,” focused on taking down the local arm of the notorious Sinaloa cartel.
During the investigation, authorities seized large quantities of heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, some of which were concealed in hidden compartments in cars. The drugs were moved across the U.S.-Mexican border and transported in these cars outfitted with secret traps.
Just as astonishing, Cartel members were hiding in plain sight the whole time, even taking in a Cavaliers game — courtside.
“These aren’t street-level dealers, they were dealing in massive quantities and, in return, huge amounts of cash,” Herdman said.
By the end of the investigation, 29 kilos of cocaine, eight kilos of heroin, a kilo of fentanyl and four pounds of marijuana were seized, along with nearly $350,000, guns, vehicles and dozens of cell phones.
Operation Loaded Deck ended with 19 people sent to federal prison for their roles in the drug trafficking organization.
The Ohio Highway Patrol said the agency is seizing an increasing amount of methamphetamine and said 90 percent of the drug comes directly from Mexican cartels.
In February, troopers made a traffic stop on Interstate 70 in Madison County and recovered 10 pounds of cartel meth worth $100,000.
“It’s pure. It’s extremely highly potent. It’s often referred to as ice because it’s so clear,” said Sgt. Tiffany Meeks. “Ohio is a target because we are at crossroads of major interstates that lead to metropolitan areas.”
In 2013, the highway patrol seized 24 pounds of methamphetamine. By 2016, that number climbed to 94 pounds and spiked again to 145 in 2017. That’s a 55 percent increase.
he drug is flowing across the border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimates in the past five years, meth seizures have tripled.
The Ohio Highway Patrol said the cartels operate like a business and are always looking for new routes to transport drugs and make as much money as possible.
“Our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said Sgt. Meeks. “We’re out there to make a difference, and make sure those drugs don’t destroy lives.”