HUNT folks right: Transparency is key

Mike Hahn of the Michigan State Police is one of those guys you always want on your side.

Smart, sensible and fair, he is the type of person that, when he speaks, you know you want to listen. And listen carefully.

Thus, when the assistant commander of the Michigan State Police’s 7th District met with area law enforcement officers this week, I took note. I listened through the words of News reporter Julie Riddle, who attended that gathering.

And I smiled.

Hahn told the group the drug problem in Northeast Michigan was growing like an “epidemic” and the need for community support was greater today than at anytime in HUNT’s history. HUNT first was formed in December 1990 and is made up of undercover agents who are trying to eliminate the drug trade in Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency and Presque Isle counties.

“There is organization in the drug trafficking world, and they have found the market up here,” Hahn said. “… we have people that are setting up shop, right here in our community.”

I smiled as I read the story as to how Hahn suggested the group might tackle this growing problem. One suggestion he offered was to be more visible, to be more transparent in spreading the word about the “who, what, where, when and why” questions that the public has about drugs.

Imagine that … Hahn was suggesting a solution like that which can be found in news stories in our newspaper six days of the week, 52 weeks a year.

Hahn said he has created an email template that he wants to begin using to share with community leaders throughout the four-county area. The template would tell the community leaders in the region information on drug-related criminal activities in the area, including links to booking photos of those people arrested.

The concept, Hahn said, is to empower people with information.

I couldn’t agree more. The newspaper has been doing that forever, and has shared with area law enforcement for years the benefits of such communication. And Hahn was one of those who listened, and worked with us to make that information available to the public.

“People are going to find out what’s really happening,” Hahn said. “And they’re going to be armed with that, and then they can make those good decisions.”

Indeed they will.

Let’s be honest. Certainly, some of that perspective right now is driven because the team relies on public funding and support, and it needs all the positive public opinion it can for future funding. Everyone understands that.

But Hahn also knows that, by empowering community leaders with knowledge, it also will benefit the team as community members support and understand their mission. He knows there will be more opportunities for cooperation and perhaps even collaboration. And he knows it might help generate helpful leads or directions that the team might otherwise have not been aware of.

So, how bad is the problem in Northeast Michigan?

According to the 2018 annual report just released, the HUNT team “initiated 136 investigations and arrested 117 persons, with a total of 221 arrest counts,” according to HUNT Commander Stuart Sharp. The team confiscated various drugs amounting to a street value of $379,691.

And it isn’t always about drugs. Dealing in that dark corner of society, undercover agents also often end up investigating related crimes like sex offenses, burglaries, or possession of unlawful weapons.

That is why Hahn is correct in his plan to share all that information as often and to as many community leaders as he can.

“We’re the frog in the pan, and it’s getting warmer and warmer,” Hahn said of the increased drug traffic in the region. “Let’s not fall asleep and boil. Let’s take action while we can.”

Bill Speer can be reached at 989-354-3111, ext. 311, or Follow him on Twitter @billspeer13.