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PI goes full-time with HUNT

ROGERS CITY — At a recent meeting, the Presque Isle County Board of Commissioners voted, with some contention, to provide a full-time officer to represent the county on the Huron Undercover Narcotics Team.

HUNT, a team of officers whose mission is to find and eliminate the source of drugs endangering Northeast Michigan, is made up of representatives of area law enforcement agencies who serve on the team for an unspecified number of years, working undercover throughout the area.

Presque Isle County has provided a part-time officer who worked with HUNT one day a week. The county has been in discussion about its preferred level of involvement with HUNT for several years, with commissioners divided in their opinions.

The recent decision by the county, championed by Presque Isle County Sheriff Joe Brewbaker, will provide significantly more manpower to enable the team to do more, and do it better, according to HUNT commander Detective Lt. Stuart Sharp.

“You know what they say, the more boots on the ground, the better we are,” Sharp said, applauding Presque Isle County’s decision to take a stronger stand against the increase of opioid abuse in our corner of the state.

In Presque Isle County, according to the HUNT commander, the biggest opioid-related problem is what he calls the diversion of pills — prescribed medication being used in ways other than its original intent.

Through investigations, HUNT has seen that many prescriptions are not used as prescribed but rather are monetized as a form of currency, being traded for cash, services, goods, vehicles, power bills, and more.

In general, Sharp said, that kind of activity is extremely hard for uniformed officers to detect and often is missed without undercover activity.

Sharp related an incident involving a 56-year-old area resident who had, for the previous eight years, been prescribed many medications but had never actually used them for her medical needs. Rather, she sold them to supplement her welfare income.

“She would never have been detected if it weren’t for undercover police operations,” Sharp said.

The provision of a HUNT officer by Presque Isle County will help that county in its fight against opioids by leaps and bounds, Sharp said. Not only does the addition give HUNT as a whole more manpower to fight narcotics throughout Northeast Michigan, it also benefits the county directly.

While HUNT officers can and do work anywhere within the team’s region, they carry with them a connection to and understanding of their own community. Networks they’ve built within a community that knows and has come to trust them help them make the connections they need to detect and attack drug crime specific to their area, Sharp said.

“An officer should, in turn, do a better job because of their inherent sense of duty to their area,” Sharp added.

HUNT is a team, Sharp emphasized. The officers involved represent different law enforcement agencies from around the region, but they work as one, attacking drug crime from all angles utilizing their varied backgrounds and skills, Avengers-style, as a cohesive whole.

“We’re not state police, we’re not city police, we’re not sheriff’s department, we’re HUNT,” Sharp said. “And that’s a group of everybody.”

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693 or jriddle@thealpenanews.com.