GREENVILLE — Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker of the Darke County Sheriff’s Department spoke at the luncheon hosted by the Public Employee Retirees (PERS), focusing on drugs, robbery and scams.
“Robbery (as well as other crimes) are often related to the drug problem in our community,” he told the crowd. “It is my experience that robbery, burglary, theft and break-ins are often linked to substance abuse on the part of the perpetrator. As a result of this I believe that our community could cut our crime rate by at least 50 percent by getting a handle on the drug issues.”
He explained that he was a paramedic 10 years before he joined the sheriff’s department.
“I wasn’t sympathetic to those who had substance abuse problems,” Whittaker said. “However, over recent years I have learned more about addiction and its effects on the body. I now have a better understanding which has changed my attitude to one of empathy. The point of my message is to get people to understand through my own experiences and using myself as an example that society needs to understand the science and processes of addiction so that we can better manage the problem.”
According to him the two worst drugs in Darke County are heroin and methamphetamines.
“Heroin is a depressant, the street drug version of morphine,” he said. “We tell kids not to even try those drugs. Once they go down that path, there is a rewiring of the brain. The next time they do it, the body doesn’t produce the chemical. What happens is they’re addicted. I haven’t seen the death toll like it is right now.”
“The I70 and I75 interchange is suggested to be a contributing factor as to why heroin is as plentiful and available in the Miami Valley,” the chief deputy said. “The primary reason heroin is a problem in the community is due to the addiction to opiates and opioids.”
He went on, “Dayton is ground zero of the epidemic. We are worse than New York City and Los Angeles. We in Darke County are very much a part of it. In all my years in public safety, statistics of drug overdoses has increased. From the 1980s to 2000, we may have had two a year. I didn’t know it was that bad until 2006, when we had 10. Last year, there were 17 overdoses in Darke County; that’s more than those who died in traffic fatalities.”
He went on to report there were 31 overdoses in January and 34 in February, this year.
“Our drug detectives started making undercover buys,” he said. “The vast majority were from August to early January, mostly heroin. We bought dope from them at least two times. We indicted 18 people dealing in heroin and fentanyl, which is a lot more powerful than heroin. The actual 2016 figures according to the Darke County coroner are: One heroin, seven Fentanyl, one Carfentanyl, four Fentanyl and cocaine mixed, two opioid, two prescription drugs.”
Whittaker said said heroin is not being carried here in bricks. Instead, he said, most are in gel caps, costing $5 to $6 a cap. The dealers then bring them back here and sell them for double the price.
“Gov. Kasich passed a law to help keep the F4’s [felonies] out of prison to reduce the budget,” Whittaker went on. “It has had an impact on you, the taxpayers. They [the perpetrators] get community control sanctions for F4s or F5s, and sent to jail. Darke County Jail is built to house 36 inmates. We have 51 there now. We are way beyond our capacity. We have 20 criminals housed at $50 a day in Mercer County and 10 inmates in Randolph County.”
He went on, “They’re our local problem and we can’t handle it. We send them away and that’s not not free. Darke County Jail is the smallest for an area our size. On top of that, dealers commit crimes, like stealing cars, and go to Dayton. That’s what drugs are doing to our community.”
Whittaker went on, “There does have to be consequences. If you deal drugs, you should deserve consequences. On our [traffic stops], they may be personally using and we’ll probably make an arrest but not send them to prison. We’d give that to the guys who are dealing. We’ll never solve the drug problem. We in law enforcement get frustrated with the outcomes of these cases. We have to find a way to manage it and educate our youth to break the cycle.”
In his talk about robbery, Whittaker said, “Robbery is not something that happens to individuals very often. With the rise in drug use, there is a rise in robberies. We had eight or nine cases of robbery in the last 12 months, most in the city of Greenville. Half the robberies were at 24-hour gas stations and restaurants. We’re still a fairly safe community compared to Dayton.”
He gave tips on what to do to prevent a robbery.
“If they want your stuff, give it to them. Get them away from you,” he said. “They don’t want to hurt you, they just want to leave. Don’t get in a tug-of-war over something like a purse. Then, report it as soon as you can. Stay in a well-lighted area, walk in confidence, walk with a friend and be alert. Don’t talk to them as they approach and try not to be so trusting. Don’t make yourself a good target.”
As for scams, Whittaker said they come in different ways, including emails and via the telephone.
“Most are to good to be true,” he said. “Banks and businesses won’t call you. Hang up, Don’t interact.”
He also told those in the audience not to enter any mail sweepstakes, including Publishers Clearing House.
“Your name goes on a hotline which is sold for information,” he said. “They want you to send them money before they get you your dollars. That’s illegal to send money. Another scam is when they call and say your grandson is in Mexico. Don’t fall for it. Once you pay one time, you’re on a hot, hot list. Don’t give them personal information over the phone. If IRS calls, it’s not IRS. Most scams are perpetrated from outside this country, even if local numbers do show up.”