Police wage war against drugs in Carroll

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The drug problem is getting worse in Carroll County, but police are doing even more to put a stop to it.

Carrollton Police Department experienced a record-breaking year in 2012, arresting 138 people on 285 drug charges. Of those arrested, 75 were male and 63 were female.

In 2011, CPD made 110 drug-related arrests.

When asked what percentage of crimes occurring in Carroll County are somehow related to drugs, Carrollton Police Chief Mike Willhoite estimated “90 percent plus.”

“Just about everything we encounter out here, be it a burglary or a theft, in some way you can find a connection back to the use of narcotics. It’s well over 90 percent I feel comfortable saying,” he said in an interview Jan. 4.

Carroll County Sheriff Jamie Kinman agreed. “Every bit of 90 percent of the crime in Carroll County is related to drugs, and it’s very, very sad. It shouldn’t be that way.”

The CPD statistics showed 89 charges for possession or trafficking in a controlled substance first degree, which includes the drugs heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD and certain pharmaceuticals, according a department news release. The department had 15 charges for possession or trafficking in a controlled substance second degree and five charges for possession or trafficking in a controlled substance third degree, both of which include pharmaceuticals.

In addition, CPD issued 46 charges for possession or trafficking in marijuana and 110 charges for possession of drug paraphernalia. The department also made four charges for possession of synthetic marijuana.

Out of the 333 cases opened in 2012 by the sheriff’s office, more than 100 were drug or alcohol related, Kinman said. He also estimated at least 70 percent of their arrests were related to drugs or alcohol.

“We made it an emphasis that we were going to put a big workload on it, and we’re going to do it again in 2013,” he said.

Out of the 202 arrests KSP Post 5 troopers made last year in Carroll County, 44 had drug charges, according to Public Information Officer Trooper Brad Arterburn, He also agreed that the majority of crimes troopers investigated were related in some way to drugs.

Willhoite said when he began working for the police department 22 years ago, he never saw heroin. The main drug of choice was marijuana, with a little bit of cocaine, crack and methamphetamine also on the streets.

“Heroin is an evil drug,” he said, “I can tell you just from what we’ve seen and experienced responding to overdoses and having to go into homes. It’s bad.”

When heroin first became a problem, police saw a mix of both locals and out-of-towners being arrested for the drug, but it appears to be more of a local problem. “It’s like the out-of-towners introduced our locals to heroin because the heroin is not manufactured, produced or distributed in Carrollton,” he said, “so they got introduced to it from the people from out of town and now they’re seeking it  out on their own. They’re going to mostly Cincinnati to purchase heroin.”

No longer just youth issue

The average age of the 138 people arrested by CPD on drug charges in 2012 was 31 for men, 32 for women. Willhoite noted that police have arrested people younger and older, but those are the averages.

“Right now, we’re going through as bad or worse of a drug problem in this community than we’ve ever had in my 23 years, and it’s not the youth of the community.”

At one time, Willhoite said he believed there was pretty significant drug problem with the younger generation of the community — between 16-22 — but he thinks education has helped address this issue. “The schools are doing a great job with education, and we’re not seeing that problem anymore. We’re not having a lot of calls to the schools in regards to drugs.”

However, the police chief said his officers and the statistics show more and more parents of young children are being arrested.

“A lot of these people have kids, and how they’re caring for children while they’re using heroin, I don’t comprehend that,” Willhoite said. He said it is not just the environment that can be very toxic to a child, but also the danger of having needles left around the house. “We’re getting calls from people in the community routinely now to come and pick up a syringe they found on the sidewalk.”

Attacking the problem

Willhoite estimates among CPD, Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and Kentucky State Police, more than 500 drug charges were levied in the county in 2012.

But Carroll County is not the only area having a problem with drugs. “I believe all of our neighboring counties, all across the state, they’re having the same issues that we are,” Willhoite said. “We worked significantly on narcotics before that, but in 2012, through the partnership with the sheriff’s office … and in talking with the Commonwealth’s Attorney, we went at it really, really hard. So does that make it stick out more here than in other places; I don’t know, but we’re acknowledging it, we’re attacking it and we’re going to continue to do so. We’re not letting up. I want every person who is involved in the drug trade in this city and county to, every time they make a drug transaction with somebody, to wonder ‘Is the person I’m buying from an informant for the police?’ I want that to be a concern for them, because we’re using informants and we’re going to continue.”

Last year, there were 230 circuit court felony indictments in Carroll County, the most since Commonwealth Attorney Jim Crawford took office in 1989. It was just the third time in 23 years that Carroll County’s numbers exceeded Grant County’s total. Grant County had 205 circuit court indictments in 2012, while Owen County had 80.

Two of CPD’s officers have been specifically focused on attacking the drug problem. “I’ve got two officers that I have given a lot of freedom and a lot of responsibility to go out here and to go after the traffickers and the users, and they’ve done a great job,” Willhoite said. “Out of these 138 arrests, overwhelmingly, the majority of them were made by those two officers. They worked their tails off in 2012.”

Kinman said he wished he could designate a deputy to just work drug cases, but he is not able to do so. However, one deputy has worked probably more than 100 drug cases in 2012 with CPD and KSP, he said.

“The relationship we have is phenomenal,” Kinman said of the sheriff’s office and city police. “A lot of people know me and Mike are close, and that helps both departments because we share information. … Our officers get with their officers and they work together. My deputies greatly enjoy working with the CPD and KSP officers.”

Willhoite said CPD, the sheriff’s office and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office are all doing more work with the same amount of people.

“We’re not asking for anything else, no more employees,” he said. “We’ve taken it on as a responsibility. … We’re all stretched, but we’re all doing it. It’s our duty, it’s our jobs, we’ll get it done.”

Handcuffed by the law

Kentucky House Bill 463, signed in 2011, re-wrote the state criminal code by reducing penalties for nonviolent crimes, such as drug trafficking and possession, to help alleviate overcrowding in the jails.

But Willhoite thinks the law needs to be repealed.

“House Bill 463 has been horrible for law enforcement, it’s been horrible for the court system and it’s been tough on prosecution,” he said. “House Bill 463 has made it harder to arrest and keep these people in jail. It has tied the hands of the prosecution; it has tied the hands of the judges.”

Willhoite gave the example of a Carrollton woman who was charged Oct. 7 with trafficking in heroin. On Dec. 14, police arrested her for possession of heroin.

“... Before House Bill 463, she still would have been in jail,” the police chief said. “So we’re dealing with these people when they would have stayed incarcerated under the way that the law used to be. That’s by no fault of the court system; it’s all to do with the law.”

For example, in the 2010 edition of the Kentucky Revised Statutes, KRS 218A.1412 states a person was guilty of trafficking in a controlled substance, first degree, when he knowingly and unlawfully traffics in a controlled substance classified in Schedules I or II — i.e. heroin, LSD, cocaine, etc. — or a number of other substances, including a controlled substance containing any amount of methamphetamine. Any person who violates the law is guilty of a Class C felony for the first offense and a Class B felony for the second or subsequent offense.

After HB 463, a person must traffic 4 grams or more of cocaine, 2 grams or more of heroin or meth, or 10 or more dosage units of a controlled substance classified in Schedules I or II in order for it to be a Class C felony. If the quantity is less, it is now a Class D felony for the first offense and a Class C felony for the second or subsequent offense.

“Somebody is trafficking in heroin, (and) you call them a nonviolent offender? I don’t buy that just because of the shear number of deaths and overdoses that we’ve had as a direct result of heroin,” Willhoite said. “A heroin dealer is a violent offender in my opinion. People are dying because of it.”

Kinman said it is upsetting to law enforcement when they put someone in jail for trafficking drugs on a Monday, for example, and the person is back out again on Wednesday. He said he gets phone calls from the public asking why someone who was just arrested for drugs is back out again, and he tells them that it is the law.

“We want to help those people and also keep the streets safe,” Kinman said. He said he does not think sitting in jail for two days sends the message to the offender that they need to change their behavior and seek help. “We need to help them before they completely lose control of their lives.”

What can the
average person do?

Willhoite said because of the shear number of arrests made by local police, a number of families have likely been affected in the community.

“The best thing I can tell the people if they are concerned about it is be aware of the behavior, the changes in their family members and try to intervene, try to help out,” he said. “Every time that you can cure somebody from one of these opiate addictions, it’s a win. It’s a win for that person, it’s a win for that family, it’s a win for the community. We don’t want to have to go out and be charging and arresting this amount of people, but we’re doing it because we have to. There’s a need for us to do it.”

The police chief said he hopes everyone they arrest could overcome their addiction, but it takes self-determination and a willingness to get better in order to have success.

If someone is seeking assistance, they should look online for information on the drug and alcohol treatment centers in the area. “There are treatment centers everywhere across this state. Some are better than others, but any intervention can only help,” he said.

Kinman said the sheriff’s office Facebook page and website have been a tremendous help to them. People can submit anonymous tips through the website or by calling the sheriff’s office, and a number of them pan out. He said he probably gets at least one a week, and he or the deputies will investigate each tip. He also encourages people to come up to him or the deputies in public and talk to them about issues they see in the community.