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Photo: Steve Burns
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Photo: J.D. Gray
Indiana is in the midst of a drug epidemic with more people dying from overdoses than in car crashes. Indiana State Police Sgt. Jerry Goodin says it’s the top issue police are facing. He says nothing else even comes close.
“It’s a very difficult issue for several reasons. For one there is the divide with people who think it is an illness and the others who think it is a choice,” Goodin says. “That is not for the police to decide. That is for the doctors, the legislators to decide. We just do our jobs as an enforcement arm.”
New all-crimes policing teams give officers more resources to do that. The teams started up a couple months ago.
“If we can just fight these little battles, and we can win these little battles, it’s going to lead us to win the big war.”
Indiana State police officers have broad job descriptions and a range of responsibilities. The work of the policing teams is more focused.
“They are going to go after drug dealers every single day they work,” Goodin says. “That is all they have to worry about. That is their mission: to arrest drug dealers.”
Goodin says it’s working. Last week state police announced 20 major drug arrests in Southern Indiana. Goodin calls it the tip of the iceberg, but he says it illustrates how serious police are about solving the drug problem.
“We can show instances that we think are major wins in the war on drugs,” he says. “But as with any war there is never just one battle. If we can just fight these little battles and we can win these little battles it’s going to lead us to win the big war.”
In addition to dealers, the policing strategy also applies to users.
“We’re wanting to work some of these overdose cases where people do survive,” Goodin says. “Where they have Narcan used to help them survive.”
Although arresting drug users is nothing new, it’s a red flag for Indiana Recovery Alliance Director Chris Abert.
Abert points to research that shows criminalization of drug users doesn’t work and instead exacerbates the problem.
“Often policies such as this end up pushing people who are using drugs further into the criminal system,” Abert says.
Goodin says arresting users is about getting them help. He says every Hoosier deserves to live in a drug free environment.
Lindsey Wright contributed to this story.