When it comes to the War on Drugs, law enforcement has no intention of backing down.
In just five months the Ohio Highway Patrol has nearly tripled the amount of heroin taken off Ohio roadways from all of last year.
In 2011, the highway patrol seized 12,054 grams of heroin.
KEVIN PIERSON The Marietta Times
Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Simmons displays a balloon of heroin at the Sheriff’s Criminal Division office on Fourth Street in Marietta Monday morning. Balloons like the one displayed sell for an average of $50 locally.
Between Jan. 1 and May 31 of 2012, the patrol statewide has seized an astounding 35,244 grams of the drug. The patrol did not have the figures available for Washington County specifically.
"Our heroin seizures (statewide) from last year to this year, I know this sounds crazy, are up 1,882 percent," said Sgt. Michael Seabolt with the Marietta Post of the Ohio Highway Patrol.
With the patrol currently understaffed, troopers in Marietta and around the state are being trained to look beyond the license plate when it comes to traffic stops, Seabolt explained.
By the numbers
Heroin seizures by the Ohio Highway Patrol
2011: 12,054 grams
January to May 31, 2012: 35,244 grams
To report impaired drivers or suspected drug activity call #677.
Source: Ohio Highway Patrol.
Heroin/opiate cases handled by the Major Crimes Task Force
January to May 31, 2012: 15
Source: Washington County Sheriff's Office.
"We're looking beyond the initial reason for the stop for signs of criminal activity," he said.
In 2011, the highway patrol seized over $69 million worth of contraband as troopers found 2,662 drug violations.
Through June 4 of this year, the patrol has recorded 3,429 drug violations.
Heroin seizures aren't the only drug the highway patrol is seizing in considerable quantities.
Marijuana seizures for the time frame of January 1 to May 31 are up 126 percent over a year ago with 1,446,017 grams of the drug seized.
OVI enforcement is also on the rise. Those citations have increased from 9,654 in the first half of 2011 to 10,725 in 2012, Seabolt said.
Last week Heath A. McGarvey, 26, of Chillicothe, was found to be in possession of 149 Opana tablets, 25 grams of cocaine and 105 grams of heroin when he was stopped on U.S. 35 in Gallia County by the highway patrol. The drugs hold a value of more than $23,000.
"They (drugs) are not only being trafficked through Ohio, they're coming to stay," Seabolt said. "They're ending up in our communities."
The Washington County Sheriff's Office is sticking by its commitment to remove drugs from the community as well.
Opiate-based drugs, of which heroin is a part, are one of the most commonly abused substances in Washington County, said Sheriff Larry Mincks.
A single balloon of heroin, which can be purchased in Columbus for roughly $5 to $7, is worth $50 locally due to the high demand, Mincks explained.
"It (heroin) is a terrible drug. It really is," Mincks said. "People have told me they want to get off it. They need to get off it."
So far this year the sheriff's office has 15 arrests in cases involving heroin in the county.
As part of those cases, sheriff's deputies have seized eight unit dosages of heroin and 12 grams.
The Major Crimes Task Force, a combination of law enforcement agencies, has already had a pair of sizable seizures this year as well.
On March 2, Task Force agents seized 38.5 grams of black tar heroin in Beverly and another 11.8 grams was seized in an arrest on Wells Avenue in Marietta on April 9.
"Our cases are up tremendously since 2005," Mincks said. "We're going to continue trying to fight this opiate problem."
Mincks said the creation of the task force in 2005 is the reason behind the increase in cases. Prior to that the sheriff's office averaged a handful of drug investigations a year.
Anyone who witnesses suspected impaired driving or drug activity is encouraged to contact police by calling #677.