Strong agency relationships help combat drug crime

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Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
The Ohio State Highway Patrol presented the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office with a certificate of appreciation for funding the Shield Conference (from left) Capt. Mike Kemmer, criminal investigations/criminal patrol; Major Gene Smith, criminal investigations section; Col. Paul Pride, head of the OSHP; Stephen J. Pronai, Madison County prosecutor; Nick Adkins, assistant prosecutor; Lt. D.J. Smith, central region criminal patrol commander; and Lt. Robert Curry, West Jefferson post commander.

(Posted Nov. 15, 2018)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

The Madison County Prosecutor’s Office had a hand in bringing together agencies from across the Midwest to share ideas on how to better intercept and prevent the movement of illegal drugs in the region.

Using money confiscated from drug seizures in the county, Prosecutor Stephen J. Pronai and his department funded the Shield Conference, organized by the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) and held Sept. 19-20 in Dublin.

Col. Paul Pride, head of the OSHP, recently presented Pronai’s office with a certificate of appreciation for making the conference possible.

Representatives of 16 different entities from 14 states took part in the conference. Among the participants were state highway patrols, state police, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program.

The conference had two main goals, Pride said. The first was to find out what the agencies were seeing day-to-day in terms of illegal drug movement in their areas from the country’s southern border.

“The second goal was to figure out how we can shield the Midwest from this scourge of illegal narcotics coming in… what one or two things could we collaborate on,” Pride said.

Stronger relationships among agencies and more communication across state lines were common themes, ones that Pride said have aided Ohio in becoming a state to watch for successful interdiction methods.

“We are doing this like no one else is doing it,” he said. “You’ve got to have good partners, and we do here.”

Lt. David J. Smith, central region criminal patrol commander for OSHP, pointed to the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office as one of those good partners. He said he appreciates not only the funding the office provided for the conference, but also the office’s ongoing support for training and equipment. Pronai said the partnership goes both ways.

“You’re stopping the flow of dope into Ohio. Anything we can do to help you, you say the word,” Pronai said.

Over the past two years, the Prosecutor’s Office has put hundreds of thousands of dollars in confiscated and forfeited drug funds back into the community for rehabilitation, prevention and interdiction efforts. Examples are as follows:

* For the West Jefferson post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol–night vision goggles, training, and a portable X-ray scanner that allows officers to search cars for hidden drugs without tearing the cars apart;

* For the West Jefferson Police Department–an undercover audio recorder for controlled drug buys and new Tasers for all officers;

* For the London Police Department–mobile radios, cruiser laptops, administrative computers, and assistance with purchasing a dog and vehicle for the K-9 unit;

* For the Plain City Police Department–a utility task vehicle, an education program for high-schoolers about operating vehicles while intoxicated, and assistance with purchasing a dog and vehicle for the K-9 unit;

* For the Madison County Sheriff’’s Office–mobile radios, Tasers, K-9 unit equipment, and investment in the DARE program, including assistance with purchasing a DARE car; and

* For the London Recovery Program–assistance with the purchase of a car and a truck for transportation needs.

So far this year in Madison County, the OSHP has seized 45 pounds of marijuana, 34 pounds of methamphetamine, 124 pounds of heroin and 132 pounds of cocaine. Seizures also have included fentanyl, crack, and prescription pills.

Across the state, the numbers are: 3,715 pounds of marijuana, 452 pounds of methamphetamine, 253 pounds of heroin and 467 pounds of cocaine.

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