Authorities crack down on drug dealers after string of overdoses

On Aug. 31, 2016, at least four overdoses in Jackson County were tied to heroin laced with an elephant tranquilizer.

Within the same 24-hour period, as many as 13 people overdosed in Jennings County from heroin. One woman died.

A year later, Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott said it became clear in the wake of the event that how the department handled drug investigations was going to have to change.

“We had to do something about the problem,” he said.

At the time, the department had two narcotics officers, so Abbott said he set about doubling that number.

He did it by moving money around in his budget and finding additional money for drug investigations. There also was some money available to the department from a grant received by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office.

Over the past year, Seymour police have arrested 75 drug dealers, including 52 for dealing in methamphetamine and 23 for dealing in heroin. Ten others were arrested for dealing in Ecstasy, cocaine, acid, LSD or some other type of illegal drug.

Of those arrested, 15 initially were charged with dealing in a combination of illegal substances, Abbott said.

An additional 18 people were arrested for possession of drugs or on warrants for other drug-related charges, he added.

Police also recovered 76 firearms during the investigations, Abbott said.

The use of naloxone by officers working the streets also has increased substantially in the past year, he said.

In 2016, police responded to 23 reports of overdoses and used 33 doses of naloxone to revive those people. To date this year, police have used 80 doses to revive 32 people, Abbott said.

The biggest month this year was in May, when police used 32 doses of naloxone to revive 14 people, he said.

“It’s kind of leveled off or even decreased the past couple of months,” Abbott said.

Enforcement is just one part of the issue, though, he said.

“You can never arrest your way out of it,” he said.

But taking a dealer off of the streets, if only for a few hours, is going to make a dent in it, he said.

“At least you’re getting them out of that lifestyle for even a little bit of time,” Abbott said.