In the five months since 50 people were charged with drug-related crimes during a targeted sweep, local police and narcotics officers have gotten information leading them to dozens more people selling synthetics drugs, methamphetamine and heroin.
About 80 people have been caught selling, making or dealing drugs, and the ongoing investigation has hopefully stopped more drugs from being sold in Johnson County, Prosecutor Brad Cooper said.
In September, about 250 officers from local police departments, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Indiana State Police and U.S. Marshals Service and the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office carried out a county-wide drug bust resulting in nearly 50 arrests.
Since then, 12 suspects who were arrested have been sentenced, and another 36 are waiting for trial, Cooper said. Five remain in the county jail, where they are expected to stay until they have their first hearing, set a trial date and are sentenced.
Police still are looking for two other suspects — Michael Tucker, 32, and Brandon Reynolds, 23, both of Indianapolis — who have not been arrested, Cooper said. They both face a charge of dealing heroin. Tucker had been convicted of dealing cocaine in Indianapolis in 2003, police said.
Police try to arrest all the suspects wanted in a drug raid at the same time if possible because it eliminates the chance for word to spread and suspects to flee, Sheriff Doug Cox said.
When suspects aren’t apprehended, local police departments aren’t spending every day trying to find those who haven’t been arrested, Cox said. Most likely, the suspect or suspects will get caught in a traffic stop or another drug-related arrest, even if it isn’t in Indiana, Cox said.
“We knew going into this we would have people flee, and more than likely, they’ll flee to another county or state. Typically, if we didn’t get the individual, it’s usually because that person ran because the heat is on,” Cox said. “They can run, but they can’t hide. Narcotics officers that put in a lot of work on the case haven’t forgot about those individuals, and U.S. marshals have those warrant and may attempt to pick up those individuals.”
Each case takes about a year to proceed through the court system, from the day the case is opened to when the person is sentenced. If the offender doesn’t plead guilty, the could face a trial, meaning more time and resources will need to be spent on those cases, Cooper said.
But the ultimate goal has also been met: gathering information that will lead to the arrest of more people involved in buying, selling and making drugs. Eventually, the goal is to get to the big players or people manufacturing or dealing narcotics and other drugs at a high volume, Cooper said.
“We’ll make even a simple arrest for marijuana because it gets them in our system,” Cooper said. “The idea is, they’re buying drugs from somewhere, so we want their supplier. We’ll just keep going up the food chain.”
Since January 2014, the county has done similar busts, and more than 200 people have been arrested, Cooper said.
Each investigation has ties to the next one, Cooper said.
“We were able to arrest this group because of information we got from this person when we made these arrests,” Cooper said.
The method is one of the most commonly used tactics in drug investigations, Cooper said. Focusing on the dealer is more important than the user, Cooper said.
Cooper has two stacks of folders on his desk: cases filed after September’s drug bust and more than 30 arrest warrants from leads investigators got after that bust.
“Each of these warrants came from information we got in September,” Cooper said. “And about 20 of these warrants we are going to serve, those came from one individual who was willing to give us more information.”
Cooper is familiar with many of the names on the warrants because they were first arrested for possession of marijuana or narcotics charges. Now they’re dealing or involved with someone who is, he said.
The goal for the next round of warrants is the same. Undercover officers may arrest the person they buy drugs from the day of the first transaction, or they might work with them to gain more information, Cooper said.
What they ultimately want to find are the marijuana growing operations or labs where dealers are creating synthetic drugs and methamphetamine, he said.
The more than 200 arrests made in the last two years send a clear message about what people will face for drug crimes and deters those operations, Cooper said.
When undercover police and narcotics officers began seeing heroin more during arrests and investigations, Cooper saw a need to be more vigilant. And heroin is not as being seen as often in Johnson County as in surrounding counties, Cooper said.
“Not only are we getting the ones here off the street and put in jail, we’re preventing other dealers from moving into the county and filling the void. We take (drug dealers) off the streets,” Cooper said.