On the Frontline

The small bag represent a small sampling of drugs confiscated from individuals by the Montgomery County Sheriffs Office during searches. The Sharps container contains needles confiscated in the county which are used by drug addicts for inserting heroin and meth.

No one needs to tell Montgomery County law enforcement officers there is an opioid problem in Montgomery County. They see it daily.

Crawfordsville Police Chief Mike Norman and Montgomery County Sheriff Mark Casteel see more of their departments’ time and manpower being devoted to fighting the county’s drug problems. Both men have increased the number of officers and have seen an increasing amount of their budgets being used to fight the use illegal drugs. 

Norman said the true cost of the local opioid abuse problem is difficult to calculate, but he knows it takes a majority of his assets.

“We have added officers and spend more money every year fighting drugs,” Norman said. “When my officers are not working on another case, they are working the drug scene. The drug problem takes a lot of our time and resources every day.”

Norman and his officers believe a majority of the heroin, which is classified as an opioid, that ends up in the county comes largely from Tippecanoe and Marion counties.

“One thing that makes it more difficult is that we have dealers and abusers traveling back and forth, sometimes making numerous trips every day, to either purchase of deliver the heroin,” Norman said. “There is no set time of day or night that they make their trips.”

Ryan Needham, chief deputy with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, agrees with Norman. He said users and sellers are “street smart” when it comes to trafficking the illegal drugs.

“The way the dealers and users pass drugs is constantly changing and evolving,” Needham said. “They all understand that if they are caught with smaller amounts of illegal drugs, legal penalties will be less.”

City and county officers work together to combat the drug problem, sharing information and resources. Both departments contribute many man hours fighting the drug problem. But, Norman said the public can help, too.

“Any citizen who suspects they see drug activity going on should contact us,” Norman said. “We have it set up so the citizen can remain anonymous and we will never use their names in any of the cases.”

Citizens can send an anonymous email, submit information on the department website’s Tip Line, which is under the Contact Us button at the bottom of the home page, or call the police department at 765-362-3762.

Unlike some areas in the state, local law enforcement officers do not carry opioid overdose reversal drugs. 

Drugs such as Narcan and Evzio can be administered to a suspected overdose victim and it will enable the patient to breath when overdosing. It is the opinion of local police departments that the drug is better administered by professional medical personnel, such as EMTs and paramedics. 

However, use of a reversal drug does not always mean a patient will be resuscitated.

“We are finding that someone who has had Narcan administered once, it will take more doses the next time,” said Darren Foreman, Montgomery County Coroner and CFD paramedic. “Just the other day I had to use four doses to get the patient breathing again. We are starting to believe that some drug abusers are not caring if they overdose because they believe Narcan will save them. The truth is that is not always the case.”

Narcan prescriptions may be obtained by residents. Needham cannot blame a parent wanting to have some of the overdose reversal drug in their homes in case their child overdoses. However, Needham knows some heroin users will “take it to the limit” believing Narcan will save them.

“The problem is that if you play with fire, it can burn you,” Needham said. “There is no guarantee Narcan will bring that person back, especially if the person overdoses by using a tremendous amount of heroin. It is just like playing Russian Roulette. There is going to be a day you pull the gun with the bullet in the chamber.”

Currently, each police department has one detective assigned exclusively to drug cases. Norman is considering creating a first-ever Narcotics Division that would add more people dedicated to illegal drug cases. 

However, with more arrests, comes added issues.

Needham said the Montgomery County Jail is full every day. Adding more officers would mean more arrests, but officers wonder where would those being charged be housed. 

Although the heroin problem is rampart right now, the good news is local police departments are willing to go to the front lines every day to make streets safer. 

“We are working like crazy to curtail this problem, but the problem is you put one in jail and two more appear,” Needham said. “We just keep plowing through it and try to make a difference.”

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