Drug team cracking down on meth manufacturingPublished 2:23pm Thursday, January 7, 2010
By AARON MUELLER
Since a millage passed in 2005 that allowed the Cass County Drug Enforcement Team to expand, the battle on drug-related crime has heated up.
According to team’s 2009 year end report, 168 cases were opened with 59 of them closed, some of the highest numbers in recent years. The team discovered nine sites with active methamphetamine labs and 23 sites with meth lab components.
In 2005, the first year the team expanded, 300 drug-related cases were opened.
Det. Sgt. David Toxopeus said the team has made big strides since the team expanded to five investigators in 2005 and then seven in 2009.
“The reason why the number of cases opened was so high in 2005 is that before we never had a dedicated drug team fighting,” he said. “That was our first year. We had people standing on the street selling. But we had young, aggressive officers.
“You don’t see people on the street trying to sell anymore,” he said. “They’re constantly on the move. They know we’re looking. They talk about how Cass County is so proactive.”
Capt. Lyndon Parrish can’t say enough about how much of a difference the extra detectives have made.
“Prior to this team, we had drug houses that we all knew about that went on for years. Now they’re our priority,” he said.
One of the key accomplishments in recent years in the battle against drugs is the significant decrease in large meth labs in the county.
But Parrish said the decrease in large labs has given way to a new challenge.
“We’ve really cut down immensely on our large labs,” he said. “But now everyone has learned how to make the one-pot labs. And so now that’s increased.”
But the benefit of having the majority of large labs shut down is that the selling of meth is down.
“One pot is for one use,” Parrish said. “If you’ve got a large lab, you’re making enough to sell a lot of it. It takes a lot of one-pots to sell it. So what we’ve got now is people mostly producing for themselves now. Before people were trying to make a living off of it.”
The team is currently made up of three detectives from Dowagiac Police Department and four from the Cass County Sheriff Department.
“It’s most effective this way. We’re different, because we’ve joined together,” he said. “We’re the only team around us like that. That’s one reason why we’re more effective, because we’re the two largest police agencies in the county working together for that.”
Despite the recent success, the battle is ongoing.
Toxopeus says each detective is carrying four or five cases at any given time and the team is averaging about three meth incidents a month.
Top cases of the year
The biggest case of the year for the drug team, according to Parrish, was a federal case involving William Berry, who was a high-level crack cocaine dealer out of South Bend.
“He was moving multiple keys (kilograms) to Dowagiac and Niles,” Toxopeus said. “We’re probably talking about 50-60 keys of cocaine.”
“We ended up raiding his house in St. Joe County, Indiana in July, probably a $250,000 house. He had a $60-70,000 Mercedes Benz convertible sitting in the front of his house. That’s why we considered him one of our largest cases.”
Parrish said that after shutting down Berry, the drug trade was hampered for “quite some time” in Dowagiac. The case resulted in six indictments.
Another big bust occurred in October, when the team arrested Tony Macik of Edwardsburg, who was buying steroids on the Internet and selling them in the area. His preliminary trial is set for today.
In April the drug team raided the Escape Reality Club, an adult entertainment club in Edwardsburg, after complaints of narcotics dealings and prostitution. The Cass County Drug Enforcement Team was the lead agency in the two-month investigation, and six were arrested.
Parrish says most drug busts are the results of citizen complaints.
“Citizen tips really are our lifeblood,” he said.
If you see suspicious activity, call the tipline at (800) 462-9328.