LIMA — Mike DeWine wanted to have a candid conversation with local police chiefs and sheriffs.
The Kewpee on Lima's eastside was the perfect location for Ohio's attorney general to hold the informal meeting while discussing problems and solutions in the never-ending war on crime.
One topic of big interest among everyone was the rise in the use of heroin. It's more than made a comeback and some say it's replacing crack cocaine as the illegal drug of choice.
DeWine said it's in every community and heroin is so dangerous people chase the high until it kills them.
“The numbers are going straight up as far as the number of deaths,” DeWine said. “More than two deaths every day.”
To combat the heroin problem, DeWine is forming a special unit and hiring eight new investigators to focus on the issue. But he said police and sheriff leaders need to do their part to get the community on board by warning people of the escalating problem and organizing an effort to combat it.
“We need to make it clear to the public that we have a heroin problem,” he said. “We cannot arrest our way of out of the problem.”
DeWine's fear is heroin could cause an increase in crime similar to the violence seen when crack cocaine hit the streets in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He said people will steal and kill chasing the high.
Allen County Sheriff Sam Crish said the big problem he faces is not enough money to hire deputies to patrol the roads.
“To fight the problem you have got to have policemen out in the community,” Crish said. “We just need more help. We're short. We can't do those things.”
DeWine said he understood but said no agency in the state has the number of officers it wants or needs.
“It's a huge problem and I don't have any solution to that. As attorney general, I can't create more police officers or deputies for you,” he said.
Ada Police Chief Mike Harnishfeger asked the attorney general about money from casino taxes for crime fighting. DeWine said there's less money than he expected to be available. He said casinos haven't made as much money as people predicted.
Other topics DeWine addressed:
•Crime lab success: DNA analysis is taking an average of 23 days.
•Mobile Training Units: DeWine's office has driving and shoot/don't shoot simulators for police agencies to use at no cost.
•Old rape kits: DeWine urged agencies to send in old rape kits for DNA testing. About a third result in a hit that leads to an arrest.
•Facial recognition: The state is up and running with the efforts, and DeWine predicted it will help solve cases and identify dead victims who in the past may not have been identified.
•Electronic cigarettes are a growing problem with people using the devices to conceal drug usage and teens getting hooked early.