Drug issues in four counties out of control

HUNT needs community, financial support

ALPENA — The Huron Undercover Narcotics Team is tasked with fighting drug distribution in Alpena, Presque Isle, Alcona and Montmorency counties, but despite the team’s best effort, the distribution and use of hardcore drugs is increasing.

Although having a limited budget the officers, troopers and deputies continue to follow up on leads and tips in an attempt to limit the amount of drugs moving to and from Alpena. According to Commander Stuart Sharp, methamphetamines, heroin and pharmaceuticals are becoming serious health and safety threats.

In 2016 HUNT helped to shut down five meth labs in Alpena County and found dump sites in both Presque Isle and Alcona counties. He said there already have been three labs found this year and he expects the trend to continue because of the users craving the drug.

“This is an epidemic nationally,” Sharp said. “This is the type of drug that if you try it one time you can become addicted, and once people learn how to manufacture it or have it delivered up here, they will continue to do so. It will damage our community.”

The use and distribution of heroin is still a major issue in the area, Sharp said. He said he doesn’t believe the public knows how prevalent the drug is in Northeas Michigan and if they did, millages like the one in Alcona that failed, would pass and municipalities would fund the team to the level it needs to be.

“I don’t think people have reference to what is really going on,” he said. “These are serious issues and for the most part I don’t think there are a lot of people that know how serious this is and what the potential impacts could be.”

Montmorency County already has committed more than $15,000 to HUNT as well as a deputy on the team. The City of Alpena is in the process of drafting a budget and considering a request for the same amount. It has provided an officer in the past as well. The city’s new budget begins July 1.

Officials in Alcona County are still trying to find a way to help support the team or find an alternative to help deal with drug matters, while Presque Isle County has not committed to either funding or a deputy.

Sharp said with all of the work the sheriff’s department and city police have daily, it is unlikely they would be able to spend the needed time and resources on drug surveillance and investigations. He said the investigations are time consuming and very involved and often take a great deal of time to result in an arrest.

“This is not a job that one officer is able to do,” Sharp said. “This is what we specialize in and trained to do. Our team has been specially trained in the field of narcotics.”

Sharp said community involvement also is important in helping break up drug rings. He said if a resident believes there is illegal drug activity taking place to leave a tip by calling 366-3395 or leaving one at HUNT’s website.

“Always be vigilant and look for the tell tale signs,” Sharp said. “If you suspect something, most likely there is something.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.