After building criminal cases against suspects by getting evidence of drug dealing and possession, officers spread across the county Wednesday to try to find and arrest more than 60 suspects in the second such roundup this year.

Undercover investigations by narcotics officers has resulted in more than 100 suspected drug dealers being charged with mostly felony crimes so far this year, with about 50 suspected drug dealers or users being arrested this week.

Suspects in Wednesday’s roundup, including men and women ranging in age from 18 to 73, are facing multiple felony charges related to possessing or selling methamphetamine. The sweep started before dawn, and by the afternoon, police had found nearly 50 of the suspects they were targeting, plus four more people who were wanted on other charges or were linked to drugs.

The goal is to get the drug dealers and the drugs off the street to curb the number of people falling to addiction, dying or committing crimes such as burglary or theft to feed their addictions, and to send a message in central Indiana that drug dealers will be caught if they come here, Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper, Sheriff Doug Cox and Franklin Police Chief Tim O’Sullivan said.

“This today primarily was to get the drug dealers and the poison they deal to our children off of our streets,” Cooper said.

Drug usage, including heroin and meth, are killing too many children, adults and even the elderly, Cox said.

“Way too many young people are dying, way too many, and it’s time we slow that down, or try to slow that down,” Cox said.

Crime statistics across the county since the focused roundups started several years ago show that the number of arrests are making a difference, Cooper said.

Nearly 80 percent of the felony crimes in Johnson County are committed by suspects who are on drugs, dealing drugs or trying to get money to buy drugs, Cooper said. When communities arrest drug dealers and focus on treating addicts, the crime rate goes down. Since 2013, the number of crimes committed in the county has gone down about 37 percent, Cooper said.

Investigators also learn that the message is being spread that drug deals shouldn’t be conducted in Johnson County.

“Oftentimes we’ll have one drug dealer telling another drug dealer, ‘I don’t come to Johnson County,” Cooper said. “And that, we’re very proud of.”

Multiple drug dealing investigations have been underway by the Franklin Police Department and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office since the last roundup in March, resulting in Wednesday’s raid to find and arrest the men and women facing charges. For example, detectives were involved in 133 drug buys to build the cases, Cooper said.

In total, 63 people are facing charges, which have already been filed by the prosecutor’s office. Eighteen suspects live outside of Johnson County, in Indianapolis or Columbus, for example. The rest live in Whiteland, Franklin, Greenwood, Edinburgh and other Johnson County communities.

Several of the suspects are less than 20 years old, and a 73-year-old Greenwood man is facing five felony dealing charges.

When searching for suspects this week, officers found additional methamphetamine, steroids, cash, guns, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Sheriff’s office deputies, U.S. Marshals and police officers from Franklin, Indiana State Police, Edinburgh, Trafalgar, Bargersville and New Whiteland searched for the suspects, and will continue to look for the suspects who have not yet been found.

Anyone with information about the suspects who have not been located can contact Franklin police at 317-346-1100 or the sheriff’s office at 317-346-4604.

The departments have worked together to pursue drug dealers for more than four years and have conducted about 800 drug buys and arrested about 700 drug dealers in that time, Cooper said. The suspect roundups send a message to central Indiana.

“At some point in time these individuals will get the message to cease and desist,” Cox said.

The number of suspects charged in Johnson County doesn’t indicate that drug usage is higher in the county as compared to other communities but rather is a result of aggressive narcotics investigation teams at the Franklin Police Department and Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, they said.

“I think this sends a strong message that we will not tolerate drugs in our city,” Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett said, noting the city will support using taxpayer resources to keep drugs out of the community and schools.

The investigators were commended for their commitment to identify drug dealers and willingness to put themselves in dangerous situations, such as encountering suspects and the chemicals they touch when conducting undercover investigations. Franklin and sheriff’s office narcotics teams put in what was described as extreme efforts to build cases against drug dealers.

“This has become a very dangerous area of expertise within law enforcement, so I’d like to send out kudos to those within the narcotics area in Johnson County law enforcement for a job well done,” Cox said.

In March, 43 suspected drug dealers from mostly Johnson and Marion counties were arrested on charges of dealing methamphetamine, heroin, synthetic drugs or other narcotics as a result of multiple investigations by Franklin police.

The number of arrests this week could send the jail population soaring to nearly 450, Cox said. The jail is designed to house 322 inmates.

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