Feb. 3-LIMA - Seizures of cocaine and fentanyl pills in Allen County were down significantly in 2022 from the previous year, but arrests related to the possession and/or distribution of fentanyl powder more than doubled during that same period, according to figures provided by the Allen County sheriff's office.
Those are among statistics provided to The Lima News from regional law enforcement agencies pertaining to drug-related arrests last year. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2021, those numbers are also reported annually to the FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System. In Ohio, 97% of all law enforcement agencies report their findings to the NIBRS.
The statistics, however, vary greatly from one law enforcement agency to the next. In some cases the numbers are less than conclusive, offering an "apples-to-oranges" comparison of potential trends. In other instances, it seems, there are some pineapples and grapefruit thrown into the mix just for good measure.
While numbers furnished by the Allen County Sheriff's Office show a detailed list of drug seizures and related arrests in 2022, statistics from the Lima Police Department are much less comprehensive, reflecting only the number of arrests in two drug categories: possession and trafficking.
Major John Bishop of the LPD has a simple explanation for the disparity.
"The system we have now is not particularly user-friendly in terms of putting data out," Bishop said. "We're in the process of putting a new system in place. It should be ready in about a year and should be tremendously easier to retrieve data from."
The LPD numbers show that in 2022 there were 535 drug possession investigations that resulted in 280 adult and 14 juvenile arrests. Comparable numbers from the previous year show 201 adults and four juveniles were arrested for drug possession. There were also four drug trafficking arrests in 2022, down from six the previous year.
Stats can be deceiving
Lt. Alex Coil, commander of the Lima post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, says statistics sometimes fail to tell the full story when it comes to detecting and interpreting trends in drug-related activity.
Troopers from the Lima patrol post made 93 drug-related arrests during 2022 - well below the 253 during the previous year. Coil said myriad factors affect the time troopers can allot to seeking out drugs. The number of fatalities and drunk-driving investigations in any given year can take time away from drug work, he said. Manpower levels at the local post can also affect the statistics.
"There was a really high number of drug arrests (by troopers at the Lima post) in 2021, but that was very much outside the norm," Coil said. "Calls for service often take away from the proactive work we do on the roads observing the type of driving behaviors we're trained to look for" which can result in drug arrests.
Through the first three weeks of 2023 troopers from the Lima post executed 15 drug-related arrests. Coil said that was the result of "a little more emphasis" on detecting criminal activity.
"With the number of (troopers) we have we're always trying to address what to focus on. It's a continuous evaluation. Our guys do good work and this year we're trying to put increased emphasis on detecting drug activity. We know it's out there," Coil said.
The disparity in tracking drug activity is illustrated in the numbers provided by sheriff's offices throughout the region.
The Auglaize County Sheriff's Office reported 34 drug-related calls for service during 2022, up from 32 the previous year, but listed only one arrest total for all offenses during the year.
The Grand Lake Task Force, made up of officers and deputies from Mercer and Auglaize counties, handled 83 drug cases in Auglaize County during 2022, down significantly from 123 the previous year. Cases involving methamphetamines numbered 38 last year, down from 86 in 2021, while 20 fentanyl cases were handled in each of the past two years.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey said his office served 74 individuals with drug-related indictments in 2022, representing 210 felony drug violations. The majority of drugs seized were methamphetamines, with fentanyl and heroin also found frequently, according to the sheriff.
"We feel like we are making progress in the drug problems throughout the county, but there is still a lot of work to be done to stay on top of it," said Grey.
"We will continue to aggressively pursue drug offenses throughout the county."
Putnam County Sheriff Brian Siefker said his office handled 59 drug cases in 2022, ranging from misdemeanor marijuana charges to felony trafficking offenses.
A deputy from Putnam County who spends 15-20 hours per week with the Multi-Area Narcotics Task Force in Defiance reported taking part in 21 felony drug arrests and one misdemeanor arrest in the county last year.
"Our agent also assisted other counties 15 times and had 39 case involvements," Siefker said. "The whole task force handled 471 drug cases last year."
Those numbers are "slightly down" from the previous year, he said.
The Allen County Sheriff's Office reported the amount of marijuana seized last year was up by nearly 30 pounds from 2021 levels while the amount of synthetic pot - K2 and Spice - confiscated during arrests nearly quadrupled.
The amounts of narcotic drugs seized during 2022 by sheriff's deputies, including the West Central Ohio Crime Task Force are listed below. (In parentheses are figures from 2021).
- Cocaine, 716.8 grams (1,141); fentanyl pills, 869 doses (200,682); fentanyl powder, 347.07 grams (29.6); methamphetamine, 632.19 grams (913.85); heroin, 11.7 grams (253); psilocybin mushrooms, 112.41 grams (110); Ecstasy, four doses (23); marijuana, 136.7 pounds (107); K2/Spice, 4,707 grams (1,314).
New record for fentanyl pill seizures
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency on its website says more than 50 million fentanyl pills were seized nationwide during 2022, a new record. More than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder also was seized last year, the DEA reports.
In Michigan, Ohio and Northern Kentucky, DEA personnel seized more than 280,000 fentanyl-laced pills and over 600 pounds of fentanyl powder. The agency claims those totals represent more than 19 million deadly doses and were more than twice the amounts seized one year earlier.
"Fentanyl in pill form is a deliberate attempt by drug cartels to make illicit drug use more appealing to Americans. We have seized fentanyl in just about every size, shape and color in both Michigan and Ohio," said DEA Detroit Special Agent in Charge Orville Greene.