A strong message for drug users coming from law enforcement in Southeast Ohio Friday morning.
Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine, along with Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood, Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning, Middleport Police Chief Bruce Swift, Gallipolis Police Chief Clinton Patterson, Gallia County Prosecutor Jeff Adkins, and Meigs County Prosecuting Attorney Colleen Williams made up a task force that was put together in September 2013, aimed at reducing drug use in the area.
The task force is part of the Ohio Organized Crime Commission, who works with local law enforcement to put task forces together to enable them to do things they could not do by themselves.
Friday, the task force announced 26 arrests on 51 charges and 17 more indictments after a five-month investigation.
WSAZ spent part of Wednesday with Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood and deputies on the roundup. Additional arrests were made Thursday in Gallia County.
"We are seeing today the first results of this task force. We want to congratulate all of them," Attorney General Mike Dewine said Friday.
Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood, along with Dewine, both said they would have never dreamed in five months time this task force would be able to make the progress they have made in battling the drug epidemic along the Ohio River. Law enforcement in the area have a warning for residents. "Anyone that's out here selling drugs in this area, you're being watched. We're watching you. You're going to get caught and we're going to be standing up here talking about you," Sheriff Wood said.
"We've made a giant step forward in the fight against drugs and we're going to continue to push forward in this fight against drugs," Meigs County Sgt. Bill Gilkey said.
Dewine says when he first got in office, there was a prescription pill epidemic in rural Appalachia and while they've made progress in that area, they've seen nothing but an increase in heroin year after year.
The AG's Office says they have been in contact with coroner's across the state, and although final numbers aren't in, there were at least 900 deaths caused by heroin in 2013.
"What we have today with heroin is that there is no county in the state that doesn't have a heroin epidemic," Dewine said.
Dewine says heroin has been brought in by Mexican drug cartels. He says it is "cheap, plentiful and abundant" and you can have it delivered to your door as easy as a pizza delivery.
"It's not going to go away," Sheriff Keith Wood said.
Dewine reminds residents in the area that although the law enforcement agencies have done a great job, they cannot arrest their way out of this and the community needs to be involved as well. He asks that members come together and form citizens groups to help educate the community about the drug epidemic.
The following were arrested:
Leslie Storms, 42, Pomeroy
Tina Storms, 40, Pomeroy
Ashley Smith, 24, Pomeroy
Tonya Aeiker, 33, Rutland
David Milliron, 34, Racine
Felisha Stumbo, 27, Middleport
Paula Gaster, 56, Middleport
Willard Laudermilt III, 29, Middleport
Amber Spradling, 29, Pomeroy
Gary Kauff, 27, Middleport
Heather Roush, 39, Middleport
Daniel Jenkins, 20, Racine
Tammy Thomas, 46, Middleport
Amanda Holmes, 28, Gallipolis
Tyrone Powell Jr., 28, Dayton
Cole Simpson, 23, Gallipolis
Taurean Ramsey, 35, Columbus
Kelcie Baird, 20, Thurman
Joseph Peck, 28, Thurman
Raymone Jackson, 31, Galena
Joseph Sexton, 20, Gallipolis
Earl Hager, 55, Gallipolis
Nancy (Kirk) Blackburn, 28, Gallipolis
Porter Mitchell,38, Gallipolis
Michelle Walker, 36, Thurman
Article extracted from wsaz.com