Drug addicts and dealers beware: All law enforcement agencies in Scioto County have come together to form the Scioto County Drug Task Force.
At a news conference at the Scioto County Sheriff's Office Friday, New Boston Police Chief Darrold Clark; Portsmouth Police Chief Charles Horner; Scioto County Prosecutor Mark Kuhn; Lt. Mike Crispin, commander of the Portsmouth Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and Scioto County Sheriff Marty V. Donini showed solidarity in announcing the joint effort to combat drugs. They also said the Attorney General's Office has offered assistance to the task force as well.
Kuhn said it's common to hear law enforcement officials talk about the drug problem in Scioto County.
“It's hard to find a family in this county that has not been affected in some way, either as having a family member being addicted, whether it's a son or daughter, grandchild, cousin, niece or nephew, or a family that hasn't been a victim of those who have been addicted to drugs, that go out and commit their thieving and burglaries and breaking and enterings to sustain their drug habit,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn said the news media has, over the past couple of years, reported the individual efforts of the different agencies, “and individually, these agencies have done a fine job in combatting that problem. Which leads us to the question, ‘How can we do better?' ”
After that introduction, Kuhn officially announced the new drug task force.
In a news release, the group said, “The role of each agency on the Scioto County Drug Task Force is to aid in getting the criminal element out of our county and reduce the effects the drug problem has on our community. Officers will be working side-by-side during this initiative with a joint commitment to make quality arrests that lead to safer Scioto County communities.
Through cooperation and communication, we will reduce the drug and related criminal activity in Scioto County by combining the enforcement and educational resources of the task force to target criminal activity occurring within and coming into Scioto County.”
Kuhn said it is important that agencies share drug intelligence information when it comes in.
“What we've learned is we may have drug trafficking in Rarden, and it affects the city of Portsmouth,” Kuhn said. “We may have drug trafficking in the city of Portsmouth, and it affects the Village of New Boston. We may have drug trafficking anywhere in the county and it affects the state patrol in their fatalities and their drug- and alcohol-related crashes.”
There already has been an increase in drug activity on the roadways this year, Crispin said.
“This first quarter alone we have seen a 16-percent increase in
drug activity on our roadways,” he said. “I think it's important thatpeople realize that although we're a state agency, the people who work at that Portsmouth patrol post are Scioto community people, and they live in Scioto County, their kids go to school in Scioto County. They're your neighbors.”
Horner said with the removal of Sudafed-type products from shelves, there has been a reduction in methamphetamine activity in Scioto County, but there has been an increase in another drug activity.
“Collectively, we have agreed that the No. 1 problem we have is prescription medications, pill problems in Scioto County,” Horner said. “And we're committed to targeting that.”
Donini said the group already had participated in three meetings.
“We, as administrators, agreed that we were going to actively participate in this drug task force, and we've committed our resources and taken time out of our schedules to meet and discuss the problems that we're having,” he said. “I think that's what's going to be key about this. We in the upper level are getting directly involved in what's going on.”
Clark said he didn't consider the actions of the task force as a new commitment.
“To me, it's a recommitment, and that's what we're doing here now,” he said.
Horner said the new task force will not be structured like the old task force that was disbanded several years ago.
“Part of this message is to the drug dealers in the community,” he said. “You will see police officers in the county. You will see the sheriff's office in the city. You will see the highway patrol in the city. We will be attacking the problem collectively as whole county wide.”
Horner also announced the task force is seeking funding.
“We are exploring that option through the Ohio State Organized Crime Commission, and we will be in contact with them inquiring as to the availability of funds to fund this,” he said.
The three steps the task force has put in place include:
€ Cooperation and communication among the five different agencies represented;
€ To have a structured targeting of criminal activity, specifically large criminal activity in this county; and
€ Joint operations, four law enforcement agencies and one prosecutor agree as a group to conduct operations jointly, whether it's information, manpower or equipment.
“Certainly we want the message to the drug dealers in this county to be: ‘We're watching. We may not get you today, we may not even get you tomorrow, but someday down the road, we're watching and we're going to know what you're doing, and we're going to get you,” Kuhn said.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232.