Cracking down on illegal pill use; Lorain County Drug Task Force joins federal squad

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Cracking down on illegal pill use; Lorain County Drug Task Force joins federal squad

Morning Journal – The Lorain County Drug Task Force will be a member of a special Drug Enforcement Administration unit set up to crack down on prescription drug abuse.

Sen. Sherrod Brown and Gil Kerlikowske, director of the office of national drug control policy, announced in Cleveland yesterday a new federal Tactical Diversion Squad.

Chief Deputy Dennis Cavanaugh, of the Lorain County Drug Task Force, said that they have one officer involved in the Cleveland-based squad that actually began in February.

“Hopefully, this will help us bring in resources to help our task,” Cavanaugh said.

He said prescription drug abuse has been a growing problem in the area for four years and since then, there have been 20 overdose deaths to prescription drugs and/or heroin.

The squad is combining its resources and intelligence with the DEA, FBI, Bureau of Criminal Investigation and other sheriff offices, drug task forces and police departments in Northern Ohio, he said. The Lorain County officer working with the squad has investigated prescription drug abuse, but this is more of a collaboration with other agencies.

Nimon said Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera has been in touch with the DEA and had one of the officers placed on a DEA’s drug task force. As of now, they do not have a Lorain police officer assigned to the Tactical Diversion Squad, he said, though putting an officer on the squad would be good, because they have a “pretty aggressive narcotics unit.”

“Everyone works hand-and-hand with this,” he said.

Nimon said the officer that works with the DEA task force will work closely with the new squad.

On April 28, area police had Operation Medicine Cabinet in which people with unwanted prescription drugs dropped them off at selected police departments and other buildings. It was the seventh pill drop off sponsored by the drug task force’s seventh. About 1,500 pounds of pills were collected in April.

According to Brown’s office, there are 47 operational Tactical Diversion Squads across the country. Before Cleveland put together a squad, the closest ones were in Michigan and Kentucky.

Brown’s office said at a March 2011 hearing of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, Brown urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to work with Ohio’s law enforcement agencies to establish one of these squads in Ohio, Brown’s office said. After a verbal agreement, Brown sent a letter to Holder urging him to establish two Ohio-based squads to help the crack down on “pill mills” and other prescription drug-related crimes.

Brown’s office said that there also is a squad in Columbus.

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