Chesterton Tribune



Sheriff Reynolds takes command of Drug Task Force

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After nearly a quarter of a century in the Prosecuting Attorney’s bailiwick, the command and coordination of the Porter County Drug Task Force (DTF) has been transferred to the Sheriff’s Police.

Prosecuting Attorney Brian Gensel announced the change in a statement released on Thursday, in which he attributed the transfer not only to “disturbing new trends in drug abuse” but to the increased role taken by the PCSP in the investigation of drug--specfically heroin--supply lines between Chicago and Porter County.

“In 1994, the Sheriff and police chiefs requested that the Prosecutor’s Office run the undercover narcotics unit,” Gensel said. “At that time there was no continuity in leadership. Since then, the unit has operated effectively with cooperation from all local police departments. . . . Because the Sheriff’s Department has taken an expanded role in battling the drug problem in Porter County, it is an appropriate time to combine all the local efforts, including the undercover task force, within that department. The undercover drug task forces in both Lake and Porter counties are under the direction of their respective Sheriff’s Departments.”

Gensel noted in particular that Sheriff Dave Reynolds’ Heroin Overdose Response Team (HORT) initiative has been working for over a year now to collect data on the source of heroin found at OD scenes and that information gleaned from those investigations “better enable(s) law enforcement to identify the dealers of the drugs leading to overdoses.”

“I look forward to continued cooperation by all the area law enforcement agencies as we continue in a unified front to battle the scourge that is enslaving and killing our citizens,” Gensel said.

Reynolds, for his part, told the Chesterton Tribune that the move came following discussions with the police chiefs of the Valparaiso, Portage, and Chesterton PDs, all of which have seconded officers to the DTF. “Because of the seriousness of the problem we thought it was time for the Task Force to go back to the police,” he said. “And Prosecutor Gensel agreed. The most important thing is that this was a decision made by the chiefs and the prosecutor. We all agreed it was the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”

As Reynolds put it, the only real way to go after the heroin problem in Porter County is by targeting dealers and their supply lines back to Chicago. “You have to cut the head off, not the tail. Because the tail grows back,” he said.

To that end, the PCSP established the HORTs, which are actually run out of the PCSP’s Patrol Division, not the DTF, Reynolds said. And while he declined to discuss in any detail the sources of the data being gleaned by the HORTs, Reynolds did say that the information has proved extremely high-grade--“beyond our expectations”--and valuable enough to warrant the hiring of a part-time analyst. That analyst--trained by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)--has had great success in back-tracking the drug-trafficking networks not only in Porter County but up the line through Lake County and into Chicago.

“The Chicago Police Department and both the Cook County Sheriff and the Lake County Sheriff are interested in our approach,” Reynolds noted. “We didn’t invent it. The DEA has been doing this for years. But it’s a tremendous asset and we’ve been promoting the HORTs to all the departments.”

Reynolds doesn’t envision an immediate increase in the DTF’s size, as the participating PDs all have manpower issues of their own. “The departments are still the same sizes,” he observed. “We’re not expecting more personnel or agents in the unit.”

Reynolds does, however, expect the DTF’s activities to become more regional in scope. “There’ll be closer cooperation with other entities,” he said, “including DEA, the Gary Police Department, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.”

And, Reynolds emphasized, “We certainly won’t be working independently of the Prosecutor’s Office. It’s like working any other case. We put it together and then give it to the Prosecutor to pursue.”

“The Drug Unit has been doing a tremendous job,” Reynolds said. “But we need to take it to a different level and in a different direction. We’re excited about this opportunity.”


Posted 3/17/2017




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