July 27, 2016

Sheriff’s Office uses coordinated patrols to target drugged drivers

Deputy Adam Bailey as Mox checks out the car during a recent directed patrol.

Deputy Adam Bailey and Mox check out a car during a recent directed patrol.

BATAVIA, Ohio (July 27, 2016) – Since April, the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office has conducted six “directed patrols” – coordinated efforts with other police agencies in the county targeted at those driving while under the influence of drugs. To date, the patrols have made 116 traffic stops, leading to:

“We were getting complaints from citizens driving to work in the morning, saying that they were seeing people weave on the road, or going left of center again and again. They would say, ‘it’s obvious these people are on drugs,’” said Chief Deputy Steve Leahy. “This is the time of day when addicts are waking up, getting together with other users, and then going out to buy drugs. Then a couple of hours later, you’d see them come back – often after using.”

Greater Cincinnati has experienced a number of accidents in the last couple of years attributed to drugged drivers, several of which have had fatalities. “Our first priority is to keep people safe,” Leahy said.

The Sheriff’s Office decided a new tactic – directed patrols – was needed.

How they work

The directed patrols, which are coordinated by Capt. Jeffrey Sellars, consist of traffic, canine, narcotics and investigation units. The Sheriff’s Office reaches out to other local law enforcement to get input on problem areas, Leahy said, including Pierce and Union townships, and New Richmond.

“There is no rhyme or reason to what day we pick to go out on patrol,” said Leahy, stressing that doing the patrols on a surprise basis is key to their success. “We’ve had great success in the first couple of hours, during these patrols,” he said, “but then word goes out, and the users are letting other people know to go different routes.”

Since heroin users are more apt to use the drug immediately, officers have not often found heroin in the cars that they stop. The officers will stop cars that are weaving or going left of center; they will run a tag to see if it has expired, or look for other indications that give them probable cause to pull the driver over, said Leahy.

The routes patrolled are ones that users are using to get their drugs – either south to Northern Kentucky or west to Cincinnati, Leahy said.

These directed patrols are just one method the Sheriff’s Office is using to combat the increased use of heroin and other opioids in Clermont County, he said. The office has also added manpower to Jackson, Stonelick and Wayne townships, where Leahy and his team identified crime “hot spots” in January as they reviewed 2015 trends. “We added an additional deputy during the day shift,” he said. “Our thinking was that if they see more deputies, they may be less likely to commit crimes.”

Within four months, property crimes – the crimes most likely to be committed by addicts and which include breaking and entering, burglary and theft – had dropped more than 50%, from 506 for the same period in 2015 to 194 in 2016.

“We’ll take another look at the numbers in August,” Leahy said.

Success with Narcan

Law enforcement is also on the front line when it comes to responding to overdose calls. Since the last quarter of 2014, the Sheriff’s Office has administered Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose, 52 times. Of those, officers were able to save 46 lives.

This beefed-up law enforcement is just one of the many ways Clermont County is addressing its problems with heroin and other opioid addictions. Both Leahy and Sellars are members of the county’s Opiate Task Force, a collaborative that brings together stakeholders from law enforcement, the courts, mental health, recovery and treatment, family, business, and local government to address the issue.

“Law enforcement by itself is not going to change things,” said Leahy. “Incarceration alone is not going to solve the problem.”

Contact: Chief Deputy Steve Leahy, sleahy@clermontcountyohio.gov; 513.732.7672

Related:

Overdose deaths climb in 2015
Get rid of prescription drugs at drop boxes
Family reunification is focus of panel at Opiate Conference
Clermont County publishes Substance Abuse Recovery Guide
CASC reopens

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