The handful of major roads that pass through Perrysburg Township makes the rural community part of active corridors for drug smugglers, something local police say attracts their continuing vigilance.
Since 2008, township police have confiscated more than 500 pounds of marijuana, with an estimated street value exceeding $1 million; more than 33 pounds of cocaine, more than 600 Ecstasy pills, and more than 5,000 pills of various illicit prescription drugs — often as the result of probable-cause searches conducted after traffic stops. Also seized during that time have been more than $300,000 in drug-related cash and a small amount of heroin.
Both Toledo and Detroit function as regional hubs for distribution of illegal drugs into the suburbs and surrounding communities, and roads crossing Perrysburg Township’s 40 square miles, such as I-75, U.S. 20/23, and State Rts. 25, 199, and 795, are often parts of those trafficking networks, police officials said.
“They take loads everywhere to small towns, to Fremont, Tiffin, and Fostoria,” said Mark Hetrick, township police chief. “It has a trickle-down effect and gets to the suburbs.”
“Heroin is cheap in Detroit,” township Sgt. Matt Gazarek added. “They can get it in Detroit, take it to West Virginia, and sell it for triple the amount.”
Township police worked 25,300 miles of road patrol during November and made 132 traffic stops. At every stop they looked for signs of narcotics activity, Chief Hetrick said. The department is the area’s best at finding drugs in cars, he said, because they have honed their profiling skills.
“Our success [finding narcotics] is because we have highly trained officers,” Chief Hetrick said. “They know how to pick out drug dealers from continually training — because they [the drug dealers] are always training how to avoid getting caught.”
So far this year officers have collected 15 pounds of marijuana [and two more pounds through an investigation in Columbus], 28 grams of heroin, 2,680 pills, and $98,560 in alleged drug money.
While reluctant to divulge some of the craftier ways his officers have found narcotics, Sergeant Gazarek said the evidence sometimes is as plain as injection track marks on a driver’s arm or a strong marijuana smell in a vehicle.
“Sometimes traffic violations give it all up,” he said. “Several years ago we pulled over a guy for his license plate, and he had 155 pounds of marijuana — there’s no way to hide that. The odor was horrendous.”
And what officers can’t smell, the department’s police dog, named “X,” often can. Deputy Chief Michael Gilmore said the dog has a proven ability to pick up on heroin or cocaine, while officers usually notice marijuana’s pungent odor.
A popular way of transporting drugs right now, Sgt. Gazarek said, is women containing the drug within their body cavities.
The department’s on-going training efforts included a recent seminar Sergeant Gazarek arranged with the Ohio Highway Patrol. The High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program offered township police more insight on drug-trafficker behavior.
But the volume of drugs township police intercept makes department leaders wonder how much more gets through.
“We’re never satisfied,” Deputy Chief Gilmore said. “We’re always trying to get better.”