CROWN POINT — The sharing of intel among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies helped LaPorte County police in August nab 15 significant arrests tied to larger narcotics trafficking crimes.
"Every one of those arrests represents months of investigations," LaPorte County Sherrif John Boyd said Friday following a meeting with law enforcement leaders and U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, about the federally funded High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area initiative.
With an annual budget of just under $3.8 million, local police in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, and Marion counties are continuing to partner with federal and state agencies such as the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration in an effort to better coordinate investigations into drug-related crimes, said Indiana HIDTA Executive Director Chuck Porucznik.
"It's all about information sharing," Porucznik said.
Boyd and Sgt. Andy Hynek, also with the LaPorte County Sheriff's Department, credited HIDTA intel for helping the agency connect the dots between small time dealers and their suppliers across the four counties funded under HIDTA.
Created by Congress in 1988, the HIDTA program provides local agencies access to federal resources to combat drug dealing operations and increase enforcement efforts. Lake County joined in 1997, Porter County followed a few years later. LaPorte County was added in January.
Marion County was also added recently, allowing law enforcement in the Region to coordinate with police in Indianapolis.
Police believe dealers and gangs use Interstate 65 as a pipeline to Marion County, so bringing Indianapolis police into the mix is critical to combat drug trafficking across the state, Boyd said.
Sen. Joe Donnelly on Friday said the HIDTA team is doing "tremendous work."
"One of the great things ... is all of the stovepipes and all of the different silos are knocked down so that you have everyone communicating with each other," Donnelly said. "It's a four-county effort that is almost seamless. they're doing a tremendous job."
Hynek said HIDTA funds allow overtime costs to be reimbursed by the federal government, along with equipment used by local police.
Porucznik said he also knows they can't arrest their way out of this problem. HIDTA funding is also used for education purposes, he said.
Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey is using some of the federal funds to offer educational sessions about how to use naxolone, an opiate overdose reversal drug, he said.
He also said the Indiana HIDTA is seeking additional discretionary funding on top of the annual $3.74 million to bring in more resources, in part, to fight the area's opioid epidemic.
"It's about helping the smaller communities act on the intel we provide," he said.