The use of methamphetamine continues to be more prevalent than heroin in the Columbus area, but the criminal case gap is closing, authorities say.

“Heroin and meth are starting to run neck-and-neck,” said Bartholomew County Deputy Prosecutor Greg Long regarding investigations into illegal use or sale of the drugs. “They are getting pretty close to being about the same.”

In its first year of operation, the Bartholomew County Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team (JNET) investigated 79 methamphetamine cases in 2015, a number that dropped to 51 last year, according to annual reports by the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.

However, heroin cases increased from 16 to 48 — a 200-percent increase — during the same period, resulting in only a three-case gap between the two types of drugs, the report stated.

With the fight to catch meth manufacturers and dealers longer in the making, “it seems like we’re playing catch-up by getting more heroin dealers,” the deputy prosecutor said.

The Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team is a combined unit of the sheriff’s department, Columbus police and the Bartholomew County Prosecutor’s office and is targeting the manufacturing and abuse of dangerous drugs in Columbus and Bartholomew County.

For more on this story, see Thursday’s Republic.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.