Last week’s session of the Morgan County Grand Jury resulted in 55 people being indicted for felony crimes committed here. Apparently that’s an all-time record for the sheer number of serious criminal cases added to the Circuit Court docket.
Even more stunning is the fact that 29 of those indictments involved drug charges, mostly for allegedly selling heroin and prescription painkillers. If anyone doubted the extent of the local drug trade – and the local drug problem — this should end the debate.
Most of the drug charges resulted from a summer-long undercover investigation by the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Vince Shambaugh dubbed it Operation Opiate Overdose as a reminder that heroin and synthetic opiates have led to a number of overdose deaths here.
Operation Opiate Overdose is the latest in a series of undercover investigations that the Sheriff’s Office has conducted in the last four years. In 2009, Operation Done Deal brought 22 arrests and, a year later, 18 people were swept up in Operation Done Deal II. In 2011, Operation Sneaky Weasel netted seven indictments. Of course, other drug arrests are made throughout the year, as well.
Plus, there’s no doubt that burglaries, thefts and assorted crimes are caused by the need to fund habits. There have even been reports of older citizens, who should know better, getting a prescription from a doctor, then selling their painkillers on the black market for a profit.
Police and courts are forced to spend much of their time on drug-related cases. Schools and students are affected. So are the local work ethic and the appeal of the community to tourists and retirees.
You can’t over-estimate the destructive impact that this plague of heroin and illegal prescription drugs has upon individual lives and on the entire Morgan County community, or the need to get it under control.