Troopers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol shared with Cleveland 19 News what signs point to a driver carrying illegal drugs, and the changing types of drugs they're confiscating on Ohio roadways.
Cleveland 19 News rode along with a drug interdiction task force of the OSHP as they patrolled a portion of the Ohio Turnpike, looking for tell tale signs that a vehicle was carrying illegal drugs. While cameras were rolling, troopers found weapons, marijuana, and illegal prescription pills on otherwise routine traffic stops.
Dashcam video of a drug interdiction detail on the Ohio Turnpike shows troopers finding two pounds of marijuana in a vehicle, a discovery that happened after the driver was pulled over for making a lane change without using a turn signal. Sgt. Tim Timberlake said he wasn’t going to pull the woman over, but found it suspicious that she pulled into a service area as soon as she saw his cruiser coming.
Timberlake said he smelled marijuana when he walked up to the car.
In the dashcam video, Timberlake can be heard talking to the driver, who gets progressively more upset throughout the conversation.
“We can smell marijuana coming out of your car so we are going to search the car is there anything you want to tell me about?” Timberlake asked her.
The driver said no, but troopers ended up finding two pounds of marijuana in the trunk. The woman on the dashcam can be heard crying and protesting to troopers that she had no idea her passenger was carrying illegal drugs in her vehicle.
The passenger was charged.
Finds like those on the highways are the rule, not the exception. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Ohio is in between two significant drug distribution centers, New York and Chicago, and most of the drugs that make it to Ohio come in through and state’s highways.
“We basically look for changes in behavior just the way people react to us,” said Timberlake. “Most people, if they're abiding by the law or not involved in criminal activity they'll act a certain way, but people involved in criminal activity, their behavior is a lot different.”
LORAIN COUNTY, OH (WOIO) - One thing that's a potential red flag is when the driver avoids eye contact with a passing trooper, and there are other signs as well.
"They do some other things in the vehicle or act certain ways and those are things that were trained to pick up on that we work on from there," said Timberlake.
Each year troopers find hundreds of pounds of drugs on the roads worth tens of millions of dollars, but the types of drugs they're finding is changing. Timberlake said troopers are seeing increased amounts of heroin on their stops.
"We see more heroin, more large quantities of heroin, but we're also still seeing the other drugs -- cocaine, marijuana -- we still see those in large bulk amounts. We see a lot of prescription narcotics," said Timberlake.
More heroin was confiscated through August of 2016 than during any other full year since 2011.
Five years ago in Summit County, troopers seized no heroin. Just through August of this year, troopers seized more than 13 pounds.
"That's our goal is to keep, to make Ohio safer for the citizens of the state of Ohio," said Timberlake.
Citizens can do their part to help -- the highway patrol always asks drivers to call see something suspicious to call #677.
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