Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw says in the fight against heroin and drug trafficking, regionalization is key. That is why the department has joined the regional narcotics unit operated by the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.
After a meeting Monday with Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones, Muterspaw announced that Middletown’s five-officer Special Operations Unit will lend manpower to the Butler Undercover Regional Narcotics Taskforce (BURN), a multi-agency narcotics taskforce operated by the sheriff’s office.
“Our Special Investigations Drug Unit will not lose any staffing with this change. We actually will be stronger now,” Muterspaw said. “This is a crucial time in our city for this because now we will have not only have our own drug unit, but ties to two others regionally to combat drug trafficking in Middletown. Being in two counties and directly in the middle of I-75 puts us at a disadvantage. This opens major doors for us in a big way.”
The number of people overdosing in Butler County since 2011 has tripled, and Middletown is spending almost $1 million each year to combat drug crime, according to Muterspaw.
“We have done a lot over the last few years to combat this. We have been part of the Heroin Summit, added two additional K9’s, increased staffing in Special Investigations, teamed with the Ohio State Highway Patrol on drug interdiction off the interstate and been a part of the Heroin Response Team. But the fact is that the problem has gotten worse, not better,” Muterspaw said.
Those programs will continue, he said, “but we are doing something outside of the box that we haven’t done in years.”
Muterspaw said police made about 800 drug arrests last year.
“Probably the most in the county, but we still have major work to do,” he said.
The BURN Taskforce, formed in 2009, at one time had as many as six other agencies participating in addition to the sheriff’s office. But budget cuts forced many police departments to stop participation in favor of keeping officers on patrol.
In addition to the sheriff’s office, Oxford Police, Butler County Adult Probation and Middletown are part of the unit.
There is no additional cost, with the exception of officers committed to the taskforce.
“It is great to have Middletown on board,” Jones said. “We are all on the same page, pulling the rope in the same direction to fight drugs.”
Police departments participating in the taskforce get the benefit of more manpower, he said.
“If they have an issue in one area, we can all focus on that area and work together.” Jones said. “The winners are the public and the losers are the criminals.”
Muterspaw said the BURN unit is passionate about getting drugs of the street and “we have to join forces to get better regionally. That is what it is going to take.”