Dowagiac keeps drug team busyPublished 10:10am Friday, January 22, 2010
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
CASSOPOLIS – More than 42 percent of Cass County Drug Enforcement Team’s 2009 arrests went down in Dowagiac.
The team Sheriff Joe Underwood’s office shares with Dowagiac Police Department seized narcotics with a street value of $272,695.21 and made 113 arrests that led to 276 charges, according to the year-end report he delivered to the Board of Commissioners Thursday night.
Of those 113 arrests, by ZIP Code they included 48 in Dowagiac, 18 in Edwardsburg, 14 in Marcellus, 13 in Cassopolis, six in Niles (Howard, Milton and Pokagon townships), five in Vandalia, five in Union, two in Jones and two in White Pigeon, which overlaps St. Joseph County.
While Jefferson Township saw no arrests, Ontwa paced the 15 townships with 15, followed by: Silver Creek, 11; Calvin, 10; Wayne, nine; Porter, six; Howard, four; Mason, four; Newberg, four; Penn, three; Marcellus, three; LaGrange, two; Milton, two; Pokagon, two; and Volinia, two.
Twenty-five arrests originated in the City of Dowagiac, with seven in the Village of Marcellus, two in the Village of Cassopolis and one in the Village of Edwardsburg.
As for who was arrested, statistics show 80 were male (58 white, 18 black, three Hispanic, one other) and 33 were female (31 white, one black, one Hispanic)
Cases opened by the CCDET total 44 for Dowagiac, eight for Marcellus, five for Cassopolis, three for Vandalia, one for Edwardsburg and one outside the county.
By township, the drug enforcement team opened: 19 cases, Ontwa; 16, Silver Creek; 15, Wayne; 10, Howard; eight, Porter; seven, Calvin; six, Newberg; six, Pokagon; five, Marcellus; three, Milton; three, Mason; two, LaGrange; two, Penn; two, Volinia; and two, Jefferson.
Forfeitures obtained by the team amount to $74,743.36 cash and $7,725 property confiscated, plus $461 cash pending and $33,210 property pending court award.
Underwood reported his office made $14,172 from its June auction, plus another $5,100 from sale of weapons.
These are kept separate from the auction and sold to gun shops.
CCDET seized 8,821.196 grams of marijuana, 4.4 grams of cocaine, .10 gram of heroin, 7.6 grams of methamphetamine, 620 pills/prescription drugs; and 177 marijuana plants.
Dowagiac’s 1,356.979 grams of marijuana and 31 plants paled in comparison to Niles’ 7,361.872 grams and 54 plants.
Ninety-two plants were removed from Vandalia.
In addition to nine meth labs and 23 components, 56 weapons were confiscated.
Voters in 2004 passed a millage aimed at expanding the team to tackle what at the time was a burgeoning methamphetamine problem.
“We were known as one of the (worst) three in Michigan” for meth labs because of Cass County’s remote rural settings. “We have reduced that considerably. But unfortunately, they’ve gone to the one-pot method with a 20-ounce pop bottle,” the sheriff said. “They make one (cooler) and discard it. If you see a little tube hanging out of the trunk, get back further.”
On Monday afternoon, Jan. 11, a “one-pot” methamphetamine lab was discovered in a vehicle in the 500 block of Main Street in Dowagiac.
The team grew to five investigators in 2005, then seven in 2009, following the August 2008 renewal.
The team consists of three detectives from the city force and four from the sheriff’s office.
“The community has to be actively involved for us to be successful,” Underwood said. “It’s a partnership between the community and law enforcement. A lot of our information comes from the community. We had a tip line before we had a drug team.
“Out of three cases with 12 kids, nine were removed to Child Protective Services. Not only is the husband or boyfriend involved, so is the wife or girlfriend. There are children around and meth is toxic” enough to warrant hazardous waste clean-up.
“The team was extremely busy last year,” the sheriff said. “We estimated $40,000 in forfeitures and exceeded that by $60,000. The budget was $1,028,919. Our expenditures were $880,606. Our revenues were $927,742, so we had a balance of $47,136.14. We did come in under budget.
“We’re trying to work with Woodlands and the Van Buren health department on putting additional treatment programs in place.
“Where we see success is when they come into jail on meth, once they’ve been detoxed and before they’re sentenced if they really want to change. We don’t want to talk to them about the crime they committed, we want to talk to them about how they can make changes in their life. We can show them. It’s important for us and the community to work on changing lives because this can’t be a revolving door. You arrest them, sentence them, they go to jail, then back on the streets, but nothing happened except they may have refined a trade.
“We’ve started an after-jail program to do aftercare with Woodlands and Van Buren health care. There is another component after they get out of jail to continually reinforce staying clean. Break-ins are coming down, but we’d like to see them down more. They’re not coming down as fast as we’d like. We’ve got (drug dealers) off the street corners and we have pushed some to other areas. They know we have an active team here in the county, but they do crime, so we keep arresting them.”
Finding jobs for those released from jail is the “tough” part, Underwood said.
“They don’t have anything to go to,” he said. “We used to have jobs for them. We had a bus that drove them to work with sack lunches” before the collapse of the recreational vehicle industry in Elkhart, Ind.