Task force works to bust suspected drug dealers in the act

(WISH Photo)

DELAWARE COUNTY Ind. (WISH) — There’s a growing drug problem in Delaware County, and now police are stepping up their efforts to get it out of their community.

In 2015, the county sheriff’s department handled 114 heroin cases and 34 meth cases — and the problem is getting worse.

“I’ve taken (an) aggressive approach here in Delaware County,” Sheriff Ray Dudley from the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department said. “Seven months ago when I took over I brought in my drug units and told them that’s our main priority, is getting rid of the drugs.”

Dudley said he doesn’t care if you’re a low-level drug dealer or the biggest dealer in the state — he’s coming for you.

Corporal Lenny Popp is one of the people tasked with taking down drug dealers. He says it’s not meth or heroin alone that’s running rampant in the community — it’s a combination.

“We look at it as we have a meth and heroin problem because most of the users are using meth and are going to be up three or four days doing their thing,” said Popp. “Then they are going to need some type of stimulant to bring themselves down, and that’s where they are purchasing the heroin.”

To see how the Delaware County team operates, 24-Hour News 8 went along for what they call a buy bust.

“When we do a buy bust, we order up the drugs as soon as the drug dealer shows up, and we get product. And (when) the drug dealer takes the cash, we bust them on the spot,” said Popp.

With the plan in place, just past noon, 24-Hour News 8 jumped in a car with a drug task force officer. When we arrived to the location, the suspect made contact with officers and then walked away, but came back five minutes later with a friend. We continued to follow the van for 10 more minutes, the whole time staying in contact with the task force leader.

“Once the undercover officer has the product, he’ll give us the take down command, and we’ll swoop in for the arrest,” said Popp.

That’s what we were waiting to hear. Within a few seconds of hearing the take down command, the task force officers pulled over the van and arrested both suspected drug dealers. With almost the entire encounter documented, law enforcement says it’s an easy setup for county prosecutors.

“It’s better for convictions. The prosecutors like it because the subjects showed up, it was controlled by the officers, he gave the (under cover) officer the dope, we gave him the money and he got arrested leaving that drug deal with that buy money in his pocket. That’s a good slam dunk case,” said Popp.

For Sheriff Dudley, it’s not just about getting dealers off the street but helping them turn their lives around. He said he wants them to serve their time, but also wants to “rehabilitate them so we can put them back in the community, so they can be productive citizens.”

Sheriff Dudley says another part of his plan to curb the drug problem is working closely on a daily basis with the Muncie Police Department and Indiana State Police.

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