Prosecutors call for stiffer drug penalties

Needles

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – An Indiana lawmaker is ready to author a bill that will help prosecutors put away drug dealers for longer periods of time.

Prosecutors laid out their agenda for the upcoming 2016 legislative session Wednesday morning, saying drugs are behind the violent crime problem.

“To be clear, if these people were in prison the murder rate would go down, its that simple,” said Aaron Negangard, the Dearborn and Ohio County Prosecutor.

Fifty-four prosecutors from across the state laid out their plans to go after drug traffickers by imposing stiffer penalties.

“We need to be able to say, this is a bad guy, and this bad guy needs to go to prison,” said Negangard.

They said the rising crime and murder rate in the state is linked directly to illegal drugs. The prosecutors said the state’s murder rate has grown more than 32 p[ercent since 2010 which they attribute to drugs.

“There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that violent crime is tied to drug trafficking,” said Terry Curry, the Marion County Prosecutor.

They also are going after meth labs and want to require a prescription to buy pseudo-ephedrine.

“How many people need to die to make this a serious issue?,” asked Negangard.

The folks at the Wheeler Mission see these drug issues everyday.

“The guys who are addicted. It goes beyond that, in our estimation they’re enslaved,” said Steve Kerr, the Chief Development Officer for Wheeler Missoin. “Its not their choice. They’re literally enslaved to the drug or alcohol that they’re using, and just stopping is not an option.”

He says the legislation will help change the men’s lives.

“Something has to break the cycle, between the availability, right now its just so readily available and so something needs to break that cycle. So anything that can be done through a legislative system to break that we’re all in favor of that, absolutely,” said Kerr.

When the state rewrote the criminal code a few years ago, some sentences were lowered for drug offenders. But there’s already support for the stiffer penalties.

“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this, but we need to make those criminals know that if they’re driving through Indiana or driving to deal in Indiana that the law is going to come down on them, hard,” said Sen. Jim Merritt, who plans to author a version of the prosecutors’ demands.

The prosecutors are now asking to make the penalties mandatory. They said the law currently has no teeth.

If a person is convicted right now of selling drugs in a drug free zone, they could have most of their sentence suspended.

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