Illicit Drug Trafficking, Public Safety Priorities for Law Enforcement

Editor’s Note: This is part of a five-day series that explores the top stories of 2021 and what to expect in 2022. The series will be released December 26-30.

Law enforcement agencies in Guernsey County are preparing for the daily challenges they will encounter over the next year after a busy 2021.

Guernsey County Sheriff Jeff Paden said his office’s top priority is to continue to provide the tools necessary to meet these requirements while keeping the community safe.

“We strive to train and equip the men and women of the Guernsey County Sheriff’s Office to meet today’s evolving threats and crimes,” said Paden. “Ultimately, we want to continue providing a full range of services to the citizens of Guernsey County.”

“We always look forward to identifying the next threat to our community and the people who are trying to hurt us,” added Paden. “We never want to stop thinking, I didn’t see that coming.”

One area identified as a priority area in 2022 by Major Jeremy Wilkinson is cyber crime.

“We want our investigators to have the expertise, knowledge and technology to investigate these crimes as they are the wave of the future and we will provide them with the training they need,” said Wilkinson. “The training will help us overcome these challenges as they arise.”

With more training, Wilkinson said local investigators will be able to work with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation to investigate and clear up cybercrime.

An old enemy – illegal narcotics – will be another focus of the sheriff’s office next year.

“With the drug epidemic that hit the country, you have to put the drug dealers under further pressure,” said Paden. “If you relax just a second, they’ll come back instantly and gain ground. You have to put pressure on them every day.

“We will continue to prosecute those who use, sell, and introduce illicit narcotics into our community.”

Right now, law enforcement agencies in Guernsey County are looking for a surge in methamphetamine and pressed pills, which are mostly pure fentanyl.

“The people who buy pills off the street think they’re getting one thing when it really is fentanyl,” said Wilkinson. “They really don’t know what they’re getting from these drug dealers, and that includes school-age kids buying pills on the street.

“High school and middle school kids do things at a much younger age today, and that includes buying drugs but not getting what they think they are buying. It’s very dangerous, ”added Wilkinson.

For 2021, calls to the 911 Dispatch Center in Guernsey County have increased compared to 2020.

Dispatchers are offering an improved emergency telephone service and computerized dispatch to support efficient dispatching for six law enforcement agencies and 12 fire departments in the county.

The center had received 14,876 calls by mid-December, up 2% from 14,573 calls a year ago.

The 911 calls included 2,259 made on landlines, down 6% from 2,406 in 2020 and 12,588 from wireless devices, up 4% from 12,099 year over year.

The number of service requests was 7,884, up from 7,676 in 2020, an increase of 3%.

In addition, the control center received 67,375 emergency calls compared to 69,268 a year ago.

The communications department, under the command of Sgt. Dustin Best, employs 11 full and part-time employees.

You’re the first line of defense to ensure first responders get where they need to be and have emergency information up to the second.

In terms of call volume, the top 10 calls the sheriff’s office received included requests for assistance from other authorities, 380; Intruder alarm, 354; Health checks, 283; Squad Runs, 247 of which 65 for those who died on arrival; suspect, 236; verbal disputes, 230; Dogs at large, 227; suspicious vehicles, 222; Thefts or theft complaints, 183; and complaints of harassment or threat, 158.

So far this year there have been 545 emergency calls, including 213 with unknown injuries, 166 with injuries, 107 uninjured accidents and 59 on private property.

During the fire brigade operations, the control center counted 69 vehicles, 67 buildings and 33 reports of a possible fire due to smoke in the area.

MPs have also carried out more than 1,000 traffic checks, served 312 civil papers and investigated 173 roadblocks or hazards, along with nearly 90 other calls for various criminal and civil lawsuits.

Guernsey County Jail will be equipping law enforcement officers with new Axon body cameras that will sync with similar cameras worn by street MPs to better serve inmates and county’s residents.

Cambridge Police Department

Officials at Cambridge, where several drug overdose incidents are reported each week, will continue their fight against illicit narcotics.

“Illegal narcotics are still a huge problem in the city,” said Police Chief Mark Delancey.

One way to tackle drug trafficking is to make the department more proactive and visible in the community in enforcing road traffic.

Captain Dave Peoples said the department will also work to keep officers updated on training and knowledge to better serve the community.

The department heads expect to add a new officer and two new police cruisers in the coming year.

“We added the officer and two cruisers to the 2022 budget,” Peoples said. “We have also hired a new dispatcher who will start in 2022.”

“The ultimate goal is to make citizens and visitors safer,” Delancey said.

Cambridge Police Capt.  Dave Peoples is studying the naloxone kits (also known as Narcan) provided by the Ohio Department of Health as part of the Project DAWN program.  The kits provide life-saving medication in the event of an overdose.

In August, police began making Narcan available to officers for use in overdose incidents or for distribution to the public.

Peoples reported that the Cambridge Police Department statistics are not available because the agency does not produce them until after December 31st.

The captain hopes a new computerized shipping system to be installed in 2022 will make the process more user-friendly to reduce the time it takes to prepare the report.

Ohio State Highway Patrol

The State Highway Patrol post in Cambridge will focus on reducing the number of fatal accidents in 2022 after investigating 12 in Counties of Guernsey and Noble that year.

This year’s total is well over four fatal accidents in 2020 and is above Swiss Post’s three-year average of seven per year.

A 71-year-old motorist died earlier this month at OhioHealth's Grant Medical Center after the truck he was driving on Fairground Road went off the pavement and hit a building in Guernsey County Fairgrounds.  The State Highway Patrol post in Cambridge investigated 12 fatal accidents in Counties of Guernsey and Noble in 2021, significantly more than in 2020 when soldiers investigated four fatal accidents.

“We need to eliminate fatal crashes,” said Post Commander Lt. Melanie Appleman. “We don’t want any fatal accidents. We need to look at the areas of fatal accidents that we need to work on and how we work on those areas, including the hours the accident happened.

“I don’t want to have to tell a family that someone has died again,” added Appleman.

Of the fatal accidents that year, six were alcohol-related and three were motorcycles. Five of the victims did not wear seat belts.

The patrol will continue to focus on distracted drivers after 1,503 violations in 2021.

“It’s disappointing that people are still driving distracted,” said Appleman. “We have made a concentrated effort this year to reduce the number of distracted drivers, but the numbers are still too high.”

Appleman said that not all of the police officers’ interactions with distracted drivers included writing tickets as they also issued warnings to educate drivers.

Other areas the Cambridge Post will focus on over the next year include alcohol-related violations, drug-impaired drivers, failing to use seat belts, speed-related violations, and motorcycle safety for other motorists.

Soldiers issued 157 subpoenas for operating a vehicle while under the influence in 2021.

Appleman said the soldiers will also work to better educate pedestrians after the number of fatal accidents increased across the country.

“Those numbers are creeping up,” Appleman said. “We need to talk to people about safe sidewalks and drivers who watch out for pedestrians. People have to be slower and more vigilant. “

The Cambridge Post investigated 1,268 accidents in 2021, up from 1,123 in 2020.

The main variables in these accidents were excessive speed, 332; youth related, 317; Hirsch related, 235; Failure to give in, 117; and alcohol-related, 68.

The most common accident routes included Interstate 77, 209 accidents; I-70, 175; Ohio 209, 136; U.S. 22,120; and County Road 35, 45. The peak accident times were evening commutes, including 5pm at 83; 4 p.m. at 79; and 6 p.m. at 72.

“People ask why we issue so many tickets and that is why. We don’t want people to crash and be killed or injured, or to have to pay their insurance for damage to a vehicle.

“We have to work with the soldiers who do their jobs and the drivers who do their jobs by following the law to make the roads safer for everyone.”

Appleman encourages people to visit the patrol’s website and use Ohio Statistics and Analytics for Traffic Safety (OSTATS) to view accident information for the entire state, including Guernsey and Noble Counties.

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