Pubdate: Sat, 24 Jan 2015
Source: Lima News (OH)
Copyright: 2015 Freedom Newspapers Inc.
Author: Megan Kennedy


I-75 an artery for trafficking

LIMA - For many, Interstate 75 is a main artery for drug trafficking -
pumping drugs throughout the country.

2015 has proved no different thus far.

While I-75 is an integral part in the drug trade, officers have begun
noticing drug smugglers traveling on smaller routes in the country to
avoid detection.

Drugs know no boundaries as smugglers hired by drug cartels are not
categorized by race, sex, age or background.


The northern city is a large player in the drug trade, Lima Police
Chief Kevin Martin said. Traffickers will generally pass through Lima
on their way to and from Detroit.

This concept for the city isn't new, however.

"Detroit is a source-city for heroin and prescription pills and now
high-grade medical marijuana," said Lt. Bill Stidham with the Ohio
State Highway Patrol's Findlay post. Stidham is the head of the
criminal investigation unit of the district.

Stidham said it's also common to see people with large amounts of
money heading north to purchase the drugs.

Where it's coming from

Heroin and prescription pills are coming from the southwest border of
the United States and travels upward to the northeast corner.

One of the largest seizures the OSHP has experienced occured when
nearly $15 million of cocaine was found in a mobile home that was
being moved across the country. The drugs were hidden in a false floor
of the mobile home, which was headed for the East Coast.

Now, officers have reported an increase in drug arrests for smaller
quantities of drugs. Officers believe cartels are sending out the same
amount of drugs, but smaller quantities are less devastating to their
supply if a smugger gets caught.

Prescription pills are also largely coming from Florida, Stidham

Auglaize County Sheriff Allen Solomon said an important part of the
heroin battle is simply raising awareness about the tight hold the
drug can have on a user.

While it's important for the guilty to serve time in prison, it's
equally important to get users the help they need to decrease the
chance of recidivism, Solomon said.

K-9 officers

Officers use dogs to help combat the drug trade.

"We have one, but we'd like to have three," Solomon said. Vegas,
Auglaize County's sole K-9 officer, is kept busy with the drug trade.

However, when one isn't enough, Solomon said the Sheriff's Office will
call for an additional K-9 to help in a situation.

Solomon said the Allen County Sheriff's Office will frequently give
aid when it's needed, however it can pose as an obstacle as well
because the K-9 needed can be up to 45 minutes away.

Engel said K-9 officers aren't much different than their human
companions. He said K-9 officers aren't foolproof and are used as a
tool to create probable cause in a situation.

"We don't want our dogs to be wrong in our favor," Engel said -
indicating there are drugs present when there aren't. He said K-9s can
have bad days, just like humans, days where they just don't want to be
at work, just like humans.

Getting creative

"If you can imagine it, we can find it," Stidham said.

Doug Engel, chief deputy of the Defiance County Sheriff's Office, said
he has seen drugs hidden in blocks of concrete and in concrete
handmade statues to conceal the drugs. Engel is the commander of the
multiarea narcotics task force, which encompasses area counties,
including Putnam County.

Officers are trained to detect deception in people when they are
pulled over on the road. Some get nervous and tell conflicting stories
and if they're accompanied by a passenger, their stories can conflict
as well.

Training man and beast

Extensive training is required for both K-9 officers and human
officers, Martin said.

K-9 officers' olfactory senses "are so much greater" than human's,
Martin said. Smugglers will often use cover scents to attempt to throw
a K-9 off guard, but many times the K-9s are able to separate the
odors and will indicate appropriately.

A lot of training for officers is ongoing, Martin said. Officers will
receive training in the police academy as well as their respective
departments, and will even learn from other senior officers out in the

Martin said the OSHP will release bulletins to let agencies know what
the updated methods of training are, to keep them up to date.

Working together

The Allen County Sheriff's Office's drug task force is made up of
officers who are highly trained to work the highway looking for
smugglers. An integral part of their operation is a state trooper who
works with the task force, Crish said.

The LPD works with not only the the Sheriff's Office, but with the
Highway Patrol as well.

"Whenever the State Patrol is engaged in one of their field details in
the area, we work with them on that," Martin said.

"I know this is really cliche, but, we do strive to work with other
agencies," Stidham said.

The working partnership gives a comprehensive training for OSHP
officers and local agencies in their efforts to combat the drug trade.
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