Soaring drug seizures point to a growing problem in northeast Ohio, state troopers say

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 5:40 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - 19 Investigates is taking an in-depth look some massive increases in drug seizures by state troopers in northeast Ohio.

These drugs taken off our highways could have been headed to your neighborhood.

We got a rare look at dash cam video showing some drug seizures by Ohio State Highway Patrol over the last year.

One video showed a tense traffic stop on U.S. 30 in Perry Township, Stark County, from October of last year.

Two state troopers patted down the driver for any weapons outside of his vehicle.

“We’re both going home safe tonight because we’re going to be cool with each other, yeah?” one of the state troopers said.

State troopers confiscated meth, cocaine, heroin and a firearm from the driver.

Another traffic stop just outside of Cleveland last July resulted in troopers seizing 28 grams of fentanyl, along with cocaine and marijuana from a driver.

OSHP tracks drug seizures and violations statewide.

19 Investigates first reported on the growing problem last month, when we discovered state troopers had seized five times as much meth and heroin as last year.

You can watch that story here.

Drug seizures have continued to grow through June.

“You see all but one month was above our three-year average,” Sgt. Santiago told us, looking at a graph of statewide drug seizures.

Two of their districts cover 15 counties in northeast Ohio.

Patrol District 3 is made-up of Ashland, Cuyahoga, Holmes, Lorain, Medina, Stark, Summit and Wayne Counties.

District 4 is made-up of Ashtabula, Columbiana, Geauga, Lake, Portage, Mahoning and Trumbull Counties.

“Unfortunately northeast Ohio is an area of concern,” Santiago said.

19 Investigates uncovered some astounding numbers when it comes to some drug seizures in our area.

Meth seizures by OSHP are up by shocking percentages so far this year.
Meth seizures by OSHP are up by shocking percentages so far this year.(Ohio State Highway Patrol)

According to OSHP statistics, meth is up more than 6,000% so far this year compared to last year at this time.

Cocaine busts are up more than 2,000% and crack busts are up about 1,500%.

In comparison to statewide average numbers, these seizures are significantly higher in northeast Ohio.

For example, meth seizures across Ohio from January to June of this year are up 436%.

This is still a significant jump, but much less than more than 6,000% we’re seeing in northeast Ohio.

“Behind those numbers, it’s a community safety threat. There was a family that was going to be torn apart, or someone’s life that was going to get ruined by addiction,” Santiago said.

19 Investigates did find some drug seizures by state troopers dropped in our area last year during the pandemic, like fentanyl and cocaine.

A cocaine seizure by Ohio State Highway Patrol.
A cocaine seizure by Ohio State Highway Patrol.(Ohio State Highway Patrol)

But meth busts went up and continue to climb.

Sgt. Santiago said there could have been a large seizure behind these numbers.

But the uptick now with several illegal drugs shows a troubling trend.

“When you see numbers that are exponentially that large, of course it’s shocking. And with each seizure and each media release that we put out, you never become immune to it because you’re just overwhelmed by the sheer volume,” Santiago said.

Once troopers seize the drugs, they send them to the state crime lab to get analyzed.

When the results come back, they’re alerted to any especially potent drug mixes that could be deadly on our streets.

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