A grandmother handed off the child she was holding so that police could arrest her on a drug dealing charge.

Across the county, police went to an Edinburgh mobile home in search of another drug dealer, only to learn he had been staying at a motel south of Franklin for a few days. The officers went to the motel, and found the 39-year-old man, a woman, and 57 grams of methamphetamine and weapons, police said.

Later in the day, officers were waiting for 22-year-old Dylan Whittemore when he got off his flight at the Indianapolis International Airport. Whittemore was wanted on two felony charges of dealing narcotic drugs.

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More than 100 police officers had spread across the community before daybreak to search for 43 suspected drug dealers Tuesday. The suspects, who are mostly from Johnson or Marion counties, have been charged with dealing methamphetamine, heroin, synthetic drugs or other narcotics as a result of a six-month investigation by Franklin police detectives.

Twenty-eight of the suspects were found Tuesday. Police were looking for the remaining 15 suspects and urged them to turn themselves in.

The goal is to get drugs out of the community, which will save lives and reduce the number of other crimes being committed, Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper and Franklin Police Chief Tim O’Sullivan said.

“If you’re going to do this in Franklin or in Johnson County, there’s going to be officers who are going to be looking for you to take you off the street and put you in prison,” Cooper said.

This is the second time in less than four months that Franklin police, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office have focused on arresting drug dealers. In November, the arrests of 35 suspected drug dealers were announced, and a drug sweep one year ago resulted in 21 arrests, Franklin Police Deputy Chief Chris Tennell said.

A concerted effort across the county during the past four years has resulted in 700 undercover drug buys that led to multiple arrests and more than 50 pounds of drugs being confiscated. The methamphetamine and heroin being sold and used in Johnson County is coming primarily from Mexico, Cooper said.

Eighteen of the suspects live in Franklin, 11 are Indianapolis residents, 10 live in Edinburgh, and others lived in Greenwood, Morgantown, Columbus or Whiteland.

Cooper credited the police officers, calling them brave for being committed to the dangerous work of conducting the investigations that led to the charges, and then risking their lives to arrest the suspects and get guns and drugs out of the community.

“They have done the hardest work. They are the ones who have made the difference,” Cooper said.

Franklin’s narcotics investigators investigate tips, coordinate and oversee drug buys and build cases against suspects by gathering evidence for weeks or months before charges are filed. The detectives are diligent in working to combat the drug problem in Franklin, which is no worse than the drug epidemic every community is facing, O’Sullivan said.

“It takes a toll on them, as you might expect,” O’Sullivan said of the detectives who have investigated the cases. “They care so much.”

The community, including the city council and the mayor, are dedicated to committed the funding and resources needed by the police department’s narcotics investigators because it reduces the number of crimes being committed, Mayor Steve Barnett said.

Cooper said the crime rate has dropped 37 percent in recent years, which he credits to the increase in drug dealing arrests. He said he wants to get the drugs off the streets, and away from the kids who are dying from drug use. More than half of the suspects who were arrested are 27 or younger.

O’Sullivan cited the number of times officers are using Narcan, which reverses the effects of an overdose, to save lives. Addicts begin using painkillers, and then begin using heroin or methamphetamine, he said.

Officers have seen drugs being sold in the presence of children, or children watching as their parents or caregivers are arrested, but “at least in that case everyone was still alive,” Cooper said.

Gov. Eric Holcomb has asked communities to focus on reversing the growing trend of drug use and has an incredible concern about the impact of addiction on families, children and the state’s businesses. Several proposals sparked by drug issues are being considered in the state legislature this session, and Cooper said he would be open to helping the addicts get treatment if they ask for it. He is opposed to offering a needle exchange program and said he would fight any proposals to approve that.

State legislators lowered the penalties for drug crimes in recent years, meaning many low-level offenders are not in prison long enough to be involved in a treatment program, such as the state’s 18-month purposeful incarceration program, which can make a difference in breaking the cycle of addiction and repeating crimes, Cooper said. He would prefer some of the crimes be eligible for longer prison sentences so that the people convicted can go through a treatment program.

Police focus on educating the public and children, O’Sullivan said.

Officers went to homes, motels, a mobile home community and even an airport to find the suspects Tuesday morning.

When investigators found a suspect at the motel on Tuesday, he was facedown asleep in his bed, and was taken into custody immediately by a U.S. Marshal. Police found a gun and knives within reach.

Police then got a search warrant to comb through the room for more evidence. Detectives found the methamphetamine, worth about $5,700, Tennell said.

Suspect Charles Muns Jr. was already wanted on a charge of dealing methamphetamine, but has been arrested on additional charges of dealing methamphetamine, maintaining a common nuisance, possession of a syringe, possession of paraphernalia and illegal possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, Tennell said. A woman in the room was arrested on charges of dealing methamphetamine, maintaining a common nuisance, possession of a syringe and possession of paraphernalia.

The Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office had already filed charges against the suspects, but the court documents were kept private until the suspects were arrested for the safety of the police officers serving the warrants, according to a news release.

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, the Indiana State Police, the Edinburgh Police Department, the New Whiteland Police Department, Trafalgar Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service all helped in serving the search warrants, Tennell said.

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Michele Holtkamp is editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at mholtkamp@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2774.