Sarah Hawley email@example.com
March 14, 2014
ROCKSPRINGS — At a press conference Friday morning, representatives from multiple agencies in Gallia and Meigs counties revealed the first major results of a newly formed crimes task force.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood, Gallia County Sheriff Joseph Browning, Gallipolis Police Chief Clinton Patterson, Middleport Police Chief Bruce Swift and Meigs County Prosecutor Colleen Williams spoke of the joint effort to combat the drug epidemic in the counties. Gallia County Prosecutor Jeff Adkins is also involved in the task force but was not in attendance for the press conference.
Friday’s announcement included word of the arrest of 26 people following a drug trafficking investigation in southeast Ohio. Warrants have been issued for an additional 17 individuals.
Agents with the Major Crimes Task Force of Gallia and Meigs Counties, which includes authorities from the above mentioned agencies, arrested the 26 suspects on a total of 51 charges in Meigs and Gallia counties this week.
Formation of the Major Crimes Task Force of Gallia and Meigs Counties, which is part of the Attorney General’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, was announced in December and formed following a meeting last Sept. 12.
“In the short amount of time that this task force has been in existence, those involved have made significant strides in fighting drug trafficking in southeast Ohio,” DeWine said. “Those in this area who are involved with drugs — especially heroin — should be on notice that law enforcement is watching.”
DeWine spoke of the drug epidemic and the need for communities to work together to help combat the problem.
Over the past few years, pill mills have been shut down and licenses taken away from 35 doctors. But since that time, there has been an increase in heroin.
DeWine said there has been a steady climb in deaths from heroin overdoses during the last four years, with at least 900 known heroin overdose deaths in 2013. He added that it is still underreported.
For every person who dies from heroin use, DeWine said there are dozens more with their lives destroyed.
Unlike previous drug epidemics, heroin covers all counties, economic groups, social groups and races.
DeWine referred to heroin as “cheap, plentiful, abundant and as easy to get delivered as pizza.”
He added that you can’t “arrest your way out of the problem,” but that the task force will continue to operate and do much good.
“Today is a great example of the teamwork from the agencies involved in making this roundup a success,” Wood said. “I’m proud of this task force for their hard work to thwart the drug epidemic. We must continue to fight for our families and children to make southeast Ohio a safer place to live.”
Wood said the quantity of charges in just a short amount of time by the task force is more than could have been imagined.
“We left the meeting with lots of great ideas,” Wood said.
Wood said the roundup should serve as notice to anyone selling drugs in southeast Ohio the “we are watching you.”
Meigs County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Bill Gilkey, who is also director of the task force, thanked all those involved, from the Attorney General to the local village and county administrations.
Gilkey added that it takes cooperation and teamwork to make something like this work.
DeWine noted that the task force shows two things — first, that its work exceeded the expectations and the level of collaborative efforts to combat the drugs epidemic and, second, there are a lot of drugs out there that many people are still selling.
“I’m very happy with the success of this task force because it shows what can happen when law enforcement agencies work together to combat drug trafficking, which is a very serious issue in this part of the state,” Patterson said. “Being a part of this task force helps us erase jurisdictional boundaries between our agencies for the common goal of keeping our communities safe.”
Browning noted that there is not only the drug crimes, but the spin-off crimes related to the drug epidemic. Crimes that are often connected to the drug epidemic can include burglary, theft, breaking and entering, etc.
All of those who spoke stated that the involvement of the community in recovery and treatment is key to the success of battling the epidemic.
The investigation involves the trafficking and/or possession of several drugs including heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, LSD, and several types of prescription drugs.
Those arrested include: