During my 26-year tenure in the Regional Narcotics Unit (renu), I have observed many changes in drug trafficking trends. During the 1980's powder cocaine emerged as the drug of choice in Cincinnati



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Chair Butler, Vice Chair Manning, Ranking Member Stinziano, and members of the House Judiciary Committee, thank you for the opportunity to be here today to address the heroin epidemic affecting communities throughout the State of Ohio.
During my 26-year tenure in the Regional Narcotics Unit (RENU), I have observed many changes in drug trafficking trends. During the 1980's powder cocaine emerged as the drug of choice in Cincinnati. Ten years later, crack cocaine dominated the drug-addicted population, resulting in a surge of crime throughout Hamilton County. Although drugs such as methamphetamine, L.S.D., and M.D.M.A, developed a presence in the community; cocaine, both in powder and crack form, dominated the drug trade for years. During my 40 years as a law enforcement officer, I have seen drug trafficking and drug abuse ruin many lives, but I have never seen a drug deadlier than heroin.
In Hamilton County, the statistics regarding heroin are alarming to say the least. 2014 proved to be the deadliest year ever for drug over doses in Hamilton County, with a total of 298 accidental overdoses. Of those overdoses, 177 of those deaths tested positive for heroin, which is the highest ever. Like all drug enforcement commanders, I was faced with addressing this problem as it progressed over the last few years. Accordingly, RENU agents focused efforts towards investigating organizations responsible for distribution of heroin throughout the Greater Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio area. As a result, RENU heroin seizures have increased 740% during the last three years.
As RENU commander, I work closely with my management team, as well as the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office to develop strategies and resources that enable RENU agents to effectively disrupt the distribution of heroin in Hamilton County. In addition to providing agents with the latest equipment and training, developing investigative strategy using the law is one of the most valuable resources in combatting heroin organizations.
A strategy common to any investigation involving a criminal organization is to obtain cooperation from one or more organization members against upper level members of the organization hierarchy. It has been my experience that the greatest incentive for a drug trafficker to cooperate with law enforcement is when the potential for facing a Major Drug Offender (M.D.O) specification exists. Cooperation by mid level traffickers against source of supply members results in the disruption of the organization, as well as the disruption of the distribution of drugs throughout Hamilton County, Ohio.
As the law currently exists, it does not adequately correspond with the amounts of heroin a mid level drug trafficker possesses when engaged in distribution. Hundreds of RENU investigations have revealed that organizations distribute smaller amounts than previously seen with cocaine. The local traffickers engaged in sourcing heroin to street level traffickers commonly acquire three to five ounces (84 grams to 140 grams) of heroin at any given time. Therefore, most local heroin traffickers never reach the threshold to face a M.D.O. specification, currently 250 grams of heroin. It is more common for out of state sources of supply to reach the current M.D.O. threshold. Considering most heroin overdoses occur ingesting small amounts (typically one gram or less), local mid level traffickers possess enough heroin to cause dozens of accidental overdoses. Additionally, it is at the mid level trafficker level where adulterants are added to the heroin to increase the overall amount of heroin, as well as the profit margin for the trafficker.
The Hamilton County Coroner's Lab has identified the presence of fentanyl in a number of overdose deaths. Fentanyl is an opioid that is used as part of anesthesia to prevent pain after medical procedures. RENU investigations have revealed that heroin traffickers commonly use this substance as an adulterant not only to increase the overall amount of heroin for distribution, but also to increase the potency of the heroin. A recent RENU investigation revealed that an accidental overdose occurred with less than one gram of heroin containing Fentanyl. The trafficker responsible for providing the decedent with the fentanyl-laced heroin has been identified as a mid level trafficker, not capable of acquiring enough heroin to reach the M.D.O. threshold for possession.
In my opinion, lowering the threshold for the M.D.O. specification for heroin poses no risk of drug addicted individuals receiving such a sentence. My experience has been that mid level traffickers rarely abuse the heroin that they sell. In fact, heroin traffickers commonly utilize drug-addicted individuals, known as "testers" to determine the potency of the drug. I can tell you that every heroin investigation I have conducted or supervised has repeatedly shown that those suffering from heroin addiction possess no more than a few grams of heroin at any one time, while those individuals involved in the distribution of heroin possess multi-ounce quantities.
For these reasons, I strongly believe that lowering the threshold for the Major Drug Offender Specification for heroin to at least 100 grams will provide law enforcement, prosecutors and judges with the ability to abate the growing heroin epidemic throughout Ohio. As a member of a community affected by this heroin epidemic, as well as the commander of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Regional Narcotics Unit, I am in full support of HB 171.


Lt. Brad Winall
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