WOOSTER — Participants in the inaugural Citizens Police Academy were enlightened and disgusted with last week’s session, which featured speakers who are on the frontlines of the battle against drugs and Internet predators.
“It’s a never-ending battle,” said Don Hall, senior agent for the Medway Drug Enforcement Agency. “It’s a war we’re never going to win, we just gotta win the next battle.”
Hall and Wooster police officer Josh Timko spoke to the academy on the city’s efforts in the war on drugs.
Wooster officer April Teichmer detailed her role as a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children task force. Teichmer spent time trying to locate sexual predators online, specifically those who try to solicit underage children.
“The people you meet online are amazing,” Teichmer said, who has investigated numerous cases either through tips or proactively. Most notably, Teichmer investigated a case in which a police chief in Indiana solicited her for sex when she was using an alias and posing as a 14-year-old girl.
She has had cases in which online people who resided in Wooster and Orrville have asked to engage in sexual conduct (when her online persona identified herself as an underage girl).
Teichmer said her involvement with ICAC began several years ago after she developed an interest in the cases. She eventually was assigned to investigate cases through ICAC for Wooster and delved into the ways she would try to find sexual predators on the Internet, mostly through chat rooms.
Because of manpower issues, Teichmer has not been able to investigate cases through ICAC for about two years.
She maintained several online profiles, as children and adults. She said it takes a lot of time to develop the cases. Some individuals would come right out about what they wanted from her online profile, while others took months to develop the trust and comfort levels for the suspects to send pictures or try to come to Wooster to meet her.
Teichmer was asked if this sort of tactic is “entrapment,” even though one of her tactics is never to initiate online contact with anyone.
“If they are coming (to Wooster) to meet me, they are coming to be arrested,” Teichmer said, and not to victimize a child.
Some of the biggest challenges to maintaining her role on ICAC was keeping up with technology and the “lingo” of teenagers.
Hall and Timko reviewed some of the tactics and roles Medway plays in the local drug scene.
Medway is a multi-county drug task force, Hall said, and spends about 80 percent of its time in Wooster and Wayne County buying and investigating drug cases.
He brought in samples of some of the narcotics seen in Wooster, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and LSD.
“Some of the bigger investigations, you just get lucky breaks,” Hall said, as a part of his business comes from dealing with confidential informants who are usually deeply ingrained in the drug scene.
One of the luckier breaks Hall discussed involved a 2011 case in which Wayne County’s largest psilocybin mushroom grow operations was discovered and those involved were arrested.
Hall noted one year the area may see an upsurge in one particular drug, only to see a different one become popular. Just five years ago, law enforcement saw a lot of ecstasy; meth was a huge problem just last year.
Recently, Wooster has seen a resurgence in heroin and opiate-based prescription pills, such as oxycodone. The city has seen a handful of heroin overdoses just in the first months of 2014.
“We’ve been so overwhelmed with heroin and ‘oxy’ that we can’t even focus on meth,” Hall said.
Hall said a recent theft of batteries investigated at a local store involved individuals who wanted the lithium in order to make the drug themselves. A mobile meth lab was later found in their vehicle.
After a primer on the local drug scene, Hall demonstrated the process for making meth using props and stand-in materials.
“You can hide it, but I’m going to find it,” Hall joked, after he told stories of places where people hide drugs on their person or elsewhere.
“(Medway) could without any trouble spend 100 percent of their time right here in Wooster,” Matt Fisher, police chief for the City of Wooster, said.
Despite this never-ending work load, Hall reassured people that Wooster is a safe place and he’s “constantly trying to make it a better place every day.”
Reporter Steve Huszai can be reached at 330-287-1645 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He is @GeneralSmithie on Twitter.