Bust reveals hard-core drug presenceJune 11, 2014
By BILL POWELL
Herald Staff Writer
JASPER — In contrast to Dubois County residents who partake of the occasional libation at a festival beer garden, Operation Big Brother proved there are others here buying, using and dealing hard-core drugs.
Prosecutor Kevin Crouse says last week’s drug sweep in which 16 people were jailed on serious felony charges demonstrated drugs and the criminal activity associated with them are definitely a problem in Dubois County.
In addition to prescription drugs and methamphetamine, there were also Operation Big Brother arrests for dealing cocaine and heroin, substances Crouse says are readily available in this area.
“In the past,” Crouse said, “I think that the (cocaine and heroin) supply in this area was not as great as it is today. It seems as if in the past year or so we’ve seen an increase in both drugs. At least for heroin, I think this has been true across the country. Many areas are experiencing an increase in heroin users and even heroin overdoses.”
Indiana legislators included a new statute in their criminal code overhaul that allows for certain individuals (including, but not limited to, paramedics, volunteer firefighters and law enforcement officers) to dispense Naloxone, an overdose intervention drug that prevents overdoses in heroin cases, according to Crouse. Another new statute provides immunity against civil liability for individuals administering Naloxone in an overdose situation.
“Although a majority of the community is not using these drugs,” Crouse said, “there is a substantial portion of the population who are involved in this type of criminal activity.”
Operation Big Brother, one of the biggest drug sweeps in the county’s recent history, culminated in more than 50 law enforcement officers from local policing agencies making arrests.
Crouse, citing officer safety, would not reveal the exact details of what went on during Thursday morning’s arrests, but he did say much of the smoothness of the raid was attributed to Dubois County Sheriff’s Department detective Sgt. Tom Kleinhelter’s coordination of officers.
The sheriff’s department also called in extra jail officers to tackle the pat-downs, booking and processing that was involved.
“The jail staff did an outstanding job,” said sheriff’s department Lt. Tim Lampert.
The sheriff’s department’s narcotics officer, deputy John Anderson, along with deputy prosecutor Beth Sermersheim, prepared cases against 17 defendants. One of those cases was dismissed because the individual died during the course of the months-long investigation before authorities were ready to proceed with arrests.
Operation Big Brother was 11 months in the making. Crouse said informants were primarily developed through street-level arrests made by Anderson and other uniformed patrol officers. Those informants then made undercover buys of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, Schedule II, III and IV controlled substances and look-a-like substances.
Crouse said the informants were given leniency in their pending criminal charges in exchange for their cooperation in the drug dealing investigations.
Anderson and Sermersheim collaborated on a daily basis to coordinate the operation. Anderson was also assisted by various other law enforcement officers, including undercover Indiana State Police detectives.
Crouse said the prosecutor’s office is seeking extended Indiana Department of Correction prison sentences in the 16 pending cases as the Operation Big Brother defendants are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Efforts to root out drug dealing in Dubois County did not stop with Operation Big Brother.
Crouse said Anderson and Sermersheim have already begun working on their next big operation.
Contact Bill Powell at email@example.com.