ALPENA- The Huron Undercover Narcotics Team has had its ups and downs this past year, but through the tribulation the dedicated officers continue to fight crime and battle drugs in Northeast Michigan.
Under the direction of Commander Frank Keck the team is looking to put past controversies behind it and continue its mission of making the region safer.
On Monday Keck issued HUNT's annual report for 2012 activity to Alpena Municipal Council. He told council members that the undercover officers had played a role in many large crime events, including the tracking and capture of a pair of criminals for a string of breaking and entering crimes and assaulting a 73-year-old woman while committing one of the burglaries. Keck said HUNT has also helped to bring down a pair of local meth labs.
The team initiated 168 new investigations in 2012 and of those, 100 were drug related. Keck said marijuana was still the most common drug located and confiscated, but the most serious issue in terms of drugs locally are the rampant use of prescription narcotics, but meth is becoming a larger issue as well.
"Right now the number one threat is prescription drugs because they are readily available, but we are making some positive moves to get with the doctors in the area and letting them know when people are being arrested for these things," Keck said. "The methamphetamines are an up-and-coming trend. If you look at where the labs have been located the last 10 years they were in Southwest Michigan, which is the hub, and worked their way all the way up to Traverse City and across to the east side of the state.
"Every year we are seeing more and more of these things, now the labs are easier to build. Anyone can do it. Someone can get the information online how to build the lab and buy what they need in a local store."
Last year HUNT seized $528,724 worth of drugs in Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency and Presque Isle counties.That is a decrease from 2011 when $856,670. Keck said part of the reason the numbers are down is because there have been reduction to the team's manpower. Last year Alpena pulled an officer from the unit, as well as Presque Isle. He said the state added an additional trooper to help and overall his team is being very successful with what it has available to it.
"I think we are going in a positive direction. We have a new sergeant on the team and we will still have the Alpena Police Department and Montmorency County on board and I haven't talked to anyone in law enforcement who isn't supportive of HUNT and its mission," Keck said. "These guys that are here are fantastic. They know what their job is and they have the passion to go out and do it. They are motivated to get out there and get this done and to keep the people of Northeast Michigan safe and the community drug free.