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