Dealer sweep reinforces drugs unacceptable in city, county

Columbus works hard every day to be a welcoming community. It’s one of the city’s core values, and that belief has been integral in many initiatives over the years.

However, there is one significant exception to that approach.

The arrest of 16 people during an Aug. 15-16 drug sweep, with warrants accusing them of dealing heroin or methamphetamine, makes it clear that drug dealers are unwelcome in Bartholomew County and Columbus, its biggest city. A 17th suspect turned himself in two days later, and an 18th suspect remains at large.

Meth has been a scourge for some time, hooking people with its highly addictive properties that leads to lives spiraling out of control and users committing crimes to support their habit.

Heroin’s impact has been worse. Since the beginning of this year, 12 heroin-related overdose deaths have been reported in Bartholomew County. And, a string of overdose cases Tuesday night in nearby Jennings and Jackson counties reinforces just how dangerous the drug is. Seventeen people — the youngest age 16 — overdosed in a two-hour period, and a 52-year-old woman died when attempts to revive her with the drug antidote Narcan were unsuccessful. Authorities do not know if one additional overdose, which occurred Tuesday in Bartholomew County, was related.

The multiple doses of Narcan required to revive overdose victims and the volume of episodes in Jennings County caused emergency responders to temporarily run out of the antidote. Authorities believe a particularly potent batch of heroin laced with fentanyl that originated in Cincinnati caused the large number of overdoses. The Cincinnati Fire Department said that at least 34 overdoses were reported Tuesday in that city.

The mid-August sweep conducted by Bartholomew County’s Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team, with assistance from four other police agencies, resulted from narcotics investigations that occurred over several months earlier this year. It also ranks among the biggest drug sweeps of all time in the county.

This positive result also is a strong indication that resources invested in the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team were prudent.

The team is composed of officers and deputies from the Columbus Police Department and Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, and is focused on pursuing drug dealers. Greg Long, a Bartholomew County deputy prosecutor, is a member of the unit and handles all the drug cases filed in the county.

The two-day drug sweep should send a message to heroin and meth dealers that they are unwelcome in the county, and local law enforcement means business in its efforts to root them out and put them behind bars.