Local law enforcement seem to agree – methamphetamine remains Henry County’s drug of choice.
“We’ve always had drug trends come and go, but for the last four to five years, meth has been horrible on the community,” said New Castle Police Chief Matt Schofield.
Knightstown Police Chief Frank Beatrice agreed, stating his department averages 15-16 drug arrests per month, most of which are meth-related.
According to Beatrice, oftentimes when people are arrested because of meth, they are also found to be in possession of the prescription drug Gabapentin, which is commonly used as an anticonvulsant and to treat nerve pain.
In Middletown, the number of monthly drug arrests varies, said Middletown Police Chief Mandy Riwitis. The fluctuation is mostly because the town consists of 50 percent rental properties and 50 percent residential homeowner properties. As the population changes, and lately Riwitis said there has been a lot of movement, so does the potential for new arrests. The town also has known areas of drug activity, which police monitor closely.
Riwitis said over the past year, COVID-19 created less vehicular traffic in Middletown, which decreased the number of traffic-related drug arrests. However, as COVID continues to decline and traffic flow once again increases, there is a greater potential for more traffic stops and subsequent drug arrests, she said.
Henry County Sheriff Ric McCorkle estimates 90 percent of inmates currently incarcerated at Henry County Jail are there because of drug-related charges.
Currently, the jail offers seven different treatment programs, five of which pertain to drug abuse. The other programs include a parenting class and one to help inmates earn their high school diplomas.
A new county jail is now under construction on Van Nuys Road, across from the New Castle Correctional Facility. McCorkle said the facility’s expected completion date is Feb. 10, 2022. Once the new jail becomes operational, McCorkle hopes to expand the number of treatment programs available.
Heroin and cocaine
Schofield estimates city police officers make three to five arrests per month pertaining to either heroin or cocaine, a slight increase.
“There for a while we went a long time without making any cocaine arrests,” Schofield said. “We had one every now and then and sometimes randomly someone from out of town. We have noticed an increase in the last six months of both heroin and cocaine. It’s a small uptick.”
According to McCorkle, drugs currently being found by the PACE Team include heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and marijuana. “PACE” stands for the Pro-Active Criminal Enforcement Team, a multi-jurisdiction law enforcement agency, including officers from Henry County, that patrols Interstate 70.
Schofield said once the city starts seeing heroin, the area drug task force quickly intervenes to get those cases moving faster because heroin is frequently laced with fentanyl, making it much easier for a person to overdose.
In Knightstown, Beatrice said cocaine cases aren’t very common.
“In the last year, we have only seen a couple cases of cocaine,” he said. “I think it’s just too expensive for our area. Meth is cheaper.”
Beatrice also said within the past three months, Knightstown has seen a “heavy increase” in the use of marijuana wax, which contains a higher concentration of THC and is often smoked through a device such as a vape pen.
Knightstown implements license plate readers
Beatrice believes identifying suspended drivers will lead to an increase in the number of drug charges filed.
Two Knightstown police vehicles are now equipped with license plate readers, which were purchased using federal grant money. The license plate readers went into effect April 6; Knightstown PD identified 25 suspended drivers within the first 12 hours, Beatrice reported. However, driving while suspended summons were only issued to a handful of violators due to lack of manpower.
Beatrice also said that last month, Knightstown returned its intoximeter to the Indiana State Department of Toxicology. The intoximeter was a device used in suspected cases of operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVWI) to measure the amount of alcohol in a person’s system. However, the device cost the town a $650 yearly maintenance fee and couldn’t be used to detect drugs in a person’s system. After consulting with the Henry County Prosecutor’s Office, Beatrice said the Knightstown Police Department went back to utilizing traditional blood draws for suspected OVWI cases.
Beatrice said results from such blood draws usually come back 50/50, meaning 50 percent of people had alcohol in their system while the other 50 percent had both alcohol and drugs.
Beatrice has a message for Knightstown drug dealers.
“We are seizing a lot of cell phones,” he said. “We get information off those phones of people you are selling to. Citizens who do these types of transactions should be cautious. We are going to start cracking down.”