Ohio Bill Aims to Crack Down on Drug Smuggling
A new bill proposed last Friday by State Sen. Jim Hughes, a Republican Senator from District 16, will make it a fourth degree felony to be caught with a hidden metal compartment that is used to smuggle drugs across Ohio.
“We know as a law enforcement agency that drugs are moving through Ohio and there is a business of drug trafficking. They sue different tactics and strategies and one of the techniques that they use is by creating these hidden compartments. Drug traffickers are in this for a business and law enforcement needs another tool in their toolbox,” said Lieutenant Anne Ralston of the OSHP.
Gov. John Kasich was present at a patrol event last Friday that gave further detail on the newly proposed legislation. He pointed out that state troopers seized over 11,000 pounds of illegal drugs in 2011 and that there were over 6,000 drug arrests, a nine percent rise from 2010. Lt. Ralston also said that a vehicle was shown at the patrol event which had a hidden compartment that was able to store six kilos worth of cocaine, valued at over $600,000.
“We received over $69 million in narcotics and contraband last year. Ohio is really in the thick of it and we have significant east/west routes, including the Ohio turnpike and interstate 70,” said Ralston. “We know that there’s a lot more out there that we are not getting and we are very focused on educating the public about it.”
This isn’t the first anti-drug policy that Kasich has supported. Last April, Kasich budgeted an additional $36 million to help fight prescription drug abuse. While serving in Congress, Kasich also voted for a bill that prohibited medical marijuana usage and needle exchange in Washington D.C.
Previously, the Ohio Revised Code didn’t contain anything that addressed hidden compartments in vehicles. If the bill passes, offenders could face up to 18 months in prison or a $5000 fine. Officers would still be required, however, to have enough reasonable cause to suspect criminal activity was going on to be able to actually pursue the hidden compartment offense.
One way to find drug traffickers that the OSHP hopes to use more in the future is through its new phone number. The number, which previously was 1-877-7-PATROL, has now been changed to #677. Drivers can dial the number, free of charge, whenever they feel that they see drug-related activity happening on the roads. The number change will cost $22,000 to replace on the 125 blue signs across Ohio’s highways, money that will come from funds previously collected in drug busts.
While the money could be used to benefit other areas for the OSHP, Ralston believes that this is something well worth the investment.
“The older number wasn’t practical with new technology and smartphones. It was a number that made sense 14-15 years ago but in 2012 it doesn’t,” said Ralston. “It’s easy for people to remember. Drug trafficking is extremely dangerous and when drivers drive impaired, they put everyone else on the road at risk.”