(Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles on illegal drug abuse in the area and what is being done to address it).
Just as illegal drugs have evolved over the years, becoming more and more potent, so too has the techniques used to investigate drug crimes in the area.
The Multi Area Narcotics (M.A.N.) Task Force has been serving northwest Ohio for 30 years and is made up of officers from six counties in the area, including Det. Jim Augustine representing the Napoleon Police Department.
The others are Defiance, Fulton, Paulding, Putnam and Williams counties.
“Crystal meth and fentanyl have changed the game over the last two years,” Augustine said.
He said when he first began with the M.A.N. unit, eastern Fulton County mostly was dealing with heroin, the western side of Fulton and all of Williams County was methamphetamine which was made locally, Defiance was mostly known for cocaine and Henry County had a lot of heroin coming in from Toledo.
“Ten years ago, before I became commander, these guys were huffing and puffing with made-up meth, what we call one-pots,” said M.A.N. Task Force Commander Maxwell Nofziger. “That’s kind of gone to the side.”
“Then fentanyl and crystal meth came, and it’s just kind of dumped everywhere,” Augustine said. “It has connected the whole area in that aspect.”
Nofziger said crystal meth has a better purity than one-pot meth, is shipped into the area through large drug cartels and is cheaper to purchase.
He added while the area’s transportation corridor is good for economic business, it also attracts and aids illegal drug activity.
“You can go north to south, east to west in a quick hurry, and to any metropolitan area,” Nofziger said.
Augustine added heroin and fentanyl mainly comes out of Fort Wayne, Toledo and Lima, while crystal meth comes from a variety of sources, including U.S. mail, which was a case the task force had recently.
“That stuff was coming from California, that we knew of, because anybody can go on the internet, just like they can print a cashier’s check, and print what looks like a UPS bar code,” Nofziger said. “Those take a long time to investigate.”
Augustine said the unit got to a point where it was able to track meth production and potential sales by monitoring hardware and retail store sales for chemicals and supplies used to make one-pot meth, while state agencies monitored for large sales of Sudafed.
“So we could build cases that way, through the people cooking the dope,” Augustine said.
He added crystal meth is mainly produced in Mexico or transported through the U.S. in liquid form.
Nofziger said because of this he encourages the individual detectives to work with their individual agencies as much as possible, but also to share information with each other.
Augustine said the sharing of that information, as well as known patterns, helps because those dealing illegal drugs frequently move within the counties.
“People move around,” Augustine said. “That’s what’s really good about here. Let’s say our Williams County agent is working on something, that’s still going to effect Defiance and Henry counties because they are dealing out to them.
“We all kind of work together, and if it’s a Napoleon person who moved to Bryan, I might have knowledge on them that will help,” Augustine said. “The information sharing is the best part.”
That includes being in contact with Lucas County counterparts, as many times people locally will avoid a “middleman” and go to Toledo to purchase illegal drugs.
“Some of our residents do overdose in Toledo, and that’s why it’s important we have communications with the other task force,” Nofziger said. “It’s called overdose mapping, and it keeps track of the overdoses that person has had in reference to the Good Samaritan Law, and two it also helps us realize that somebody in our area is always overdosing in Toledo.”
The Good Samaritan Law offers limited protection to someone who attempts to help a person in distress. It is meant to encourage bystanders to get involved in emergency situations without fear that they will be sued if their actions inadvertently contribute to a person’s injury or death.
In an effort to get an anti-drug message out to children, Augustine said members of the unit would give presentations in public, but that was put on hold last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nofziger said the unit’s website has been updated to provide information on the types of drugs prevalent in a community, treatment possibilities, an anonymous tip line and resources for helping drug abuse prevention and awareness.
During a couple of recent fatal overdoses in Henry County, in which it is believed pressed percocet pills were laced with fentanyl, Nofziger also took to social media to warn people of the dangers of the pill that is relatively new to the area.
“I was able to get on Facebook, and it had like 150 shares and it reached 100,000 people,” Nofziger said. “I don’t know if that’s the right way of doing things or the wrong way.”
Augustine said as a result of that he received a tip related to the case.
Nofziger said he was concerned about going the social media route because he knows many drug abusers are looking for that “ultimate high” and he feared they may seek the pills out.
“If I can save one person, then it’s worth it,” Nofziger said.
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