LIMA — Calling meth the “hot ticket in Lima right now,” a member of the West Central Ohio Crime Task Force on Wednesday gave members of the Lima Noon Optimist Club a peek behind the curtain of illegal drug activity in Allen County.
Holding packets of methamphetamine, which he said comes to Lima by way of Dayton, as well as crack and powder cocaine predominately coming in from Detroit, Detective Mike Haines talked at length about the process of ferreting out drug dealers and bringing them to justice.
A veteran of the U.S. Army, Haines first joined the Allen County Sheriff’s Office Heroin Interdiction Task Force some six years ago. For the past two-plus years he as worked the streets as a member of the West Central Ohio group that is comprised of officers from the sheriff’s department, Lima police, Delphos police and Ohio State Highway Patrol.
“We are the line between anarchy on the drug side and the normal lives of citizens in our communities,” Haines said.
From undercover drug purchases to traffic stops of vehicles believed to be transporting illicit drugs to locating and shutting down “pill presses” that produce fentanyl disguised as over-the-counter medications, Haines and his task force counterparts have a singular mission.
“Our biggest focus is taking heroin and fentanyl off the streets as much as possible,” he said.
Setting up undercover drug buys to accomplish that goal can sometimes be a one-time thing, Haines said, but in some cases it takes several such purchases to get the desired results.
“Every situation is different, but our end goal is always to work our way up to the guy who’s pushing poison out into the community. We always try to go as far up the (drug supply) chain as we can go.”
Haines was introduced by Destiny Caldwell, an assistant Allen County prosecutor who is assigned to that office’s drug unit. She praised the work of the task force and the willingness of all participants to work together toward a common goal.
Haines said of his job, “It’s fun. We go after the bad guys and then send them to Destiny, who puts them in jail.”
He said the COVID-19 pandemic has driven up drug prices while limiting availability.
“Prices have gone up quite a bit, because the drugs are harder to get across closed borders now. Cocaine is harder to come by and the prices have pretty much doubled because there’s less of it out there.”
Haines also addressed the use of “no-knock” search warrants in the fight against illicit drugs, saying they’re used only rarely. All search warrants must be approved by a judge, and no-knock warrants have an extra layer of paperwork that must be attached.
“We do use them sometimes,” Haines said, “but only if the propensity for violence is so great that we feel there is no other way to enter a home. We have gangs here in Lima, and there are some violent people. For the safety our our team we will use a no-knock warrant on occasion.”