MENTOR, OH (WOIO) - Lake County now has a Heroin Task Force to address the growing rate of crime related to heroin throughout the county.
Professionals say that today's heroin is much more potent than the product circulated four decades ago, and with its higher degree of purity, people get hooked much faster.
Officials say the creation of this $250,000 task force does not come from public pressure.
"The addiction of this drug makes people do things that they normally might not be doing and take some fairly drastic action to feed that habit," said Board of Commissioners President Daniel Troy.
Heroin supplanted cocaine in 2011 as the country's deadliest drug, and its death toll continues to soar.
In the state of Ohio, 680 people died of heroin overdoses in 2012. Last year in Lake County, 42 people died from the drug. In just the past few weeks, two young men died from heroin overdoses.
"Whether we want to believe it or not, our Lake County community has been adversely impacted by all the facets of this heroin scourge. Too many of our law abiding citizens are unfairly paying the price of other people's bad choices, and the resultant criminal activity those bad choices are generating is costing them in terms of financial and mental peace of mind. That's why it's important that Lake County takes steps now to do whatever we can to protect that law abiding majority of our population," said Troy.
Once the unit identifies sellers and/or users, uncovers information concerning burglaries, thefts and robberies in various communities, locates fencing operations, and other information related to criminal activity, it can pass the information onto law enforcement in those jurisdictions involved, and assist, if requested, in bringing those investigations to a successful conclusion and conviction.
"The truth to the matter is frequently the first victims of the theft are the families. Credit cards disappear. Money disappears out of the house, wallet or out of their purse. Jewelry disappears. Families don't know where to turn for assistance," explained Lake County Sheriff Daniel Duhlap.
This will require specifically assigned officers to this effort. They will need to communicate with local law enforcement agencies here in Lake County and in adjacent counties on a regular basis to share information and identify players.
Given the fact that the sheriff's office has countywide law enforcement jurisdiction, the unit would be able to move about the county with law enforcement authority to collaborate with local, state, and federal law enforcement officials and coordinate efforts.
These efforts will be to identify, investigate, arrest, and help adjudicate individuals involved in heroin trafficking and opiate use here in the neighborhoods of Lake County.
Through partnerships with local law enforcement, Lake County Narcotics Agency and Crime Lab, the Ohio BCI, the FBI, the DEA and corrections officials, this unit will be able to coordinate efforts on a number of fronts to:
• Identify, investigate and arrest heroin/opiate traffickers either in Lake County, or in neighboring counties that distribute narcotics here.
• Investigate heroin users to identify not only their narcotic dealers, but to identify and track their crimes in order to resolve the burglaries, robberies, and theft associated with their drug addictions that have negatively impacted neighborhoods throughout the county.
• Work closely with the narcotics agents in collaborative efforts to conduct drug stings of dealers and users in the heroin trade that this new unit has identified through its investigative efforts.
• Investigate and pursue both criminal and civil action against covert fencing operations in order to eliminate the flow of cash which enables heroin users to continue to support their drug addiction.
• Once the unit identifies sellers/users, uncovers information concerning burglaries, thefts and robberies in various communities, locates fencing operations, and other information related to criminal activity, it can pass the information onto law enforcement in those jurisdictions involved, and assist if requested in bringing those investigations to a successful conclusion and conviction.
• Create and sustain a media campaign for citizens to identify and turn in users and traffickers in their neighborhoods to eliminate the influx of narcotics that are destroying lives and families in Lake County.
"The commissioners feel that it is not so much an act of choice but rather one of necessity to make this investment of an additional appropriation to the sheriff's department to create this new interdiction and enforcement unit. The good citizens of this county have been able to take pride in the quality of life they enjoy here. We must make sure that we take the right steps, make the proper decisions, and send a very strong message that we will not tolerate a continuance of this criminal activity. In coordination with the sheriff's office and other law enforcement agencies, we will do whatever is necessary to fight for our county's citizens and against an undeserved deterioration of that quality of life," said Troy.