Alarming trend shows amount of drugs flowing in and out of central Ohio on the rise

Alarming trend shows amount of drugs flowing in and out of central Ohio on the rise
Highway Drug Enforcement

COLUMBUS, Ohio – From hundreds of pounds of marijuana to hundreds of pills of oxycodone, the Ohio State Highway Patrol says the number of drugs flowing in and out of central Ohio is on the rise.

"We’re right in the middle of major metropolitan areas,” explains OSHP Lt. Rob Sellers. “Drug traffickers use these highways to get these products to each coast."

Highway troopers made 12,802 drugs arrests in Ohio between January and September 2017, a 25% increase from last year. The arrests follow major highway routes and run through neighborhood towns – such as Interstate 71 through Worthington, State Route 161 in New Albany, and Interstate 670 in Gahanna.

A recent bust yielded enough fentanyl to kill a major metropolitan area, says Lt. Sellers as he held a 1.1 lb bag of fentanyl.

"Fentanyl is 10 times stronger than heroin,” Lt. Sellers said. “It’s very dangerous stuff."

Specific drugs such as crack (39 percent), marijuana (54 percent), and methamphetamine (82 percent) are spiking this year compared to seizure statistics in 2016. The highway patrol says the reason behind the 7,478 percent jump in hallucinogens is because it sometimes takes only one drugs bust to skew numbers quickly.

An ecstasy bust in January along Interstate 80 in Wood county yielded 8,500 dosages of the hallucinogen valued at approximately $800,000. The driver was coming through Ohio from Texas.

Lt. Sellers says it's the second largest hallucinogen bust in OSHP history.

While some drugs trend up and others trend down, Lt. Sellers says there is no question troopers are making a difference when they make a traffic stop and discover drugs either hidden or in plain sight.

On March 19, troopers recovered more than 65 grams of cocaine and 126 grams of heroin after making a traffic stop along Bethel Road in North Columbus.

In August, a California man was stopped along Interstate 70 in Madison County where troopers recovered nearly $1 million in marijuana edibles. A month later, 29 grams of methamphetamine were taken from a car after a traffic stop on US Route 35 in Jackson County.

"We are making a dent every time we remove an impaired driver or drugs like this from the roadway, we’re making a difference because we’re stopping those actions before they can ruin someone else’s life," said Lt. Sellers.

All drugs seized from vehicles along the highway are submitted to the patrol’s crime lab, which CrimeTracker 10 was granted a one-time exclusive access because of its secret location. The patrol drug testing lab services 250 other police agencies from around the state.

As of the end of September, the lab received 24,872 submissions. That’s a 10% increase compared to submissions this same time last year.

"We have major highways which as pipelines for these drugs to traverse our country," Lt. Sellers says as crime lab technicians work non-stop, opening mail sent in from other police agencies with drugs as evidence.

From 2012-2017, the Ohio State Highway Patrol seized nearly $200 million in narcotics. To keep traffickers off the streets, the patrol is training more troopers to become Drug Recognition Experts to spot someone who is high on the highway.

"When they see pinpoint pupils, when they see a flushed face, when they see muscle tremors, things like that, to know that there’s maybe something more going on than just someone who is tried or impaired on alcohol," Lt. Sellers explains. "Maybe you see all that and you don’t smell alcohol, then you definitely know something is going on."

Other signs include someone changing speeds or weaving while making irregular movements while driving.

The patrol has also supplied 200 training kits and packets for narcotics K9 handlers around the state at no charge to the individual police agencies.

If you spot an impaired driver, you can dial #677 to reach a highway patrol dispatcher.