By EILEEN MCCLORY
Since January, troopers at the State Highway Patrol’s Findlay post have seen more drug violations than during the entire 2016 year.
There have been 86 drug violations between Jan. 1 and July 9, according to the latest State Highway Patrol statistics for Hancock County. There were 82 violations in all of 2016.
There have also been more felony arrests by the state patrol, 19, from January to July 9, than there were in 2016, when there were only 18 arrests. Felony arrests include some drug-related charges.
“Locally, in Hancock and Hardin County, we get a lot of prescription pills that are getting abused, and marijuana,” said Lt. Matt Crow of the State Highway Patrol.
He said many of the abused drugs are coming from out of state, often originating in West Virginia or Detroit.
Across Ohio, drug crimes and arrests are up 12 percent from 2016, as are some felonies, according to the State Highway Patrol. Statewide, troopers had made 8,399 drug arrests as of June, a 30 percent rise over the previous three-year average from 2014 to 2016.
According to the patrol, 2,387 of the arrests this year include one or more felony drug charge, a 16 percent increase from 2016.
Crow said Hancock County is seeing plenty of drug crime because of its location in the state. Interstate 75 is a drug corridor, he said. Other regional drug routes include Interstate 80 and the Ohio Turnpike.
Crow said the State Highway Patrol has specific techniques for these major highways to help combat the problem.
Findlay and Hancock County do not see as many drug crimes as some other counties in Ohio. Hamilton County and Warren County see the most drug arrests on I-75.
Hamilton County has seen 158 felony arrests and 403 drug violations, while Warren County saw 107 felony arrests and 418 drug arrests.
Butler, Montgomery, Miami, Shelby, Auglaize, Allen, Wood and Lucas counties, where I-75 runs, also see plenty of drug arrests.
The patrol has seen an uptick this year in seizures of methamphetamine, cocaine, crack and opioids in pill form. The most dramatic increase was methamphetamine seizures, which increased nearly 232 percent. Opioid seizures increased 6 percent, cocaine increased by 25 percent and crack cocaine increased by 25 percent.
Crow said drugs like methamphetamine were less common when heroin and prescription opioids came onto the market, but the state patrol is beginning to see more meth again.
“The thing that pushes what kinds of drugs are being abused are prices,” Crow said. “They’ll get the cheapest thing they can get.”
Crow said there is plenty the state patrol is doing to help combat the drug problem in Hancock County. The patrol partners with the sheriff’s office and Findlay police to use canine units and officers who are trained to work with drugs and who have gathered intelligence in the field.
“We work closely with those agencies to combat problems in Hancock County,” Crow said.
“A lot of that is dependent on manpower, but we try to make that work.”
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