Large Middletown bust underlines growing police concern: The rise of meth

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Middletown Police Major Scott Reeve talks about large meth bust in Middletown.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Middletown police said it was “a huge deal” to get about 200 grams of methamphetamine off the streets in a drug bust that involved an alleged “large-scale distributor.”

The undercover bust comes at a time when meth is replacing heroin as the choice of addicts, police said. While local police departments are seeing a drop in the number of heroin overdoses, they’re seeing an increase in methamphetamine abuse.

MORE: Portman touts Butler County efforts in battling opioids

There were 156 known fatal overdoses in 2018 in Butler County, but that number could rise as the Butler County Coroner’s Office makes final rulings in some deaths. Of those 156, 128 involved fentanyl, a fentanyl analog or heroin.

The number of methamphetamine-related deaths has increased every year since 2014, according to the coroner’s office. There was one death in 2014, and that number has jumped to eight, 11, 45 and 52 last year, though that number could increase.

On Monday afternoon, members of the Middletown Division of Police and Warren County Drug Task Force issued a search warrant to a residence in the 3200 block of Beatrice Drive. Maj. Scott Reeve said members of the department’s Special Operations Unit investigated potential illegal drug activity in the house for about one year.

“It takes time to develop information,” Reeve told this news outlet.

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Danielle Carr, 31, of Middletown, was charged with drug abuse/methamphetamine and drug abuse/fentanyl, both felonies. She appeared Wednesday morning in Middletown Municipal Court, and visiting Judge J. Howard Sundermann set her preliminary hearing for March 13. She was appointed attorney Sam Borst.

Reeve called that much methamphetamine, about half a pound, “a pretty major bust,” and said it was especially important because the alleged drug house is located near Mayfield Elementary School.

“A major dealer makes an impact in the neighborhood,” said Reeve, who encouraged residents to contact police if they suspect drug activity.

Elizabeth Beadle, spokesperson for the Middletown school district, said the district was grateful for the police department making the community “a safer place for our families and staff.”

Reeve described the methamphetamine as “high quality” and not the type made in a backyard with two-liter bottles. He said the drugs probably came from “a pretty large lab.”

One gram of methamphetamine costs $85, about half of what it cost 20 years ago, said Middletown police Major David Birk. The methamphetamine that’s entering the U.S. from Mexico is “the good stuff,” Birk said.

When police searched the home Monday afternoon, besides the methamphetamine, they found a small amount of fentanyl, ecstasy and two loaded handguns. The complete list of items recovered from the residence has not been returned to the court, according to records.

Numerous people inside the residence were arrested with more criminal charges forthcoming, police said.

The following were arrested:

James Gambrel, drug abuse/methamphetamine and warrants;

Brandon Gambrel, warrants out of Middletown;

Justin Carr, obstructing official business/warrants;

Nathan Berry, warrants out of Butler County Sheriff’s Office;

James Gambrel will have his preliminary hearing March 13, and the charges against Justin Carr were withdrawn by the prosecutor, according to court documents.

This arrest also illustrates another trend: More females are being arrested than ever before, police said.

There were 3,465 inmates housed in the Middletown City Jail last year, and Major Leanne Hood, jail supervisor, estimated that 30 to 40 percent were females. She said of the 37 inmates in the jail Wednesday, five were female.

When Hood took over the jail in 2015, she said there was one cell block, or seven cells and 14 beds, designated for females. There were times last year, she said, when females had to be housed in an overflow cell block because of overcrowding.

She has seen a steady increase in the number of female inmates the last five to 10 years, she said.

On Wednesday, there were 1,098 inmates in the Butler County Jail, and 197, or 18 percent, were females, according to the jail record.

Here is what was seized when Middletown’s Special Operations unit and the Warren County Drug Task Force issued a search warrant Monday afternoon at a residence in the 3200 block of Beatrice Drive:

200: Grams of methamphetamine

12: Tablets of ecstasy

3.4: Grams of fentanyl

2: Loaded guns

SOURCE: Middletown Division of Police