(COLUMBUS, Ohio)— Ohio Governor Mike DeWine today signed an executive order creating a specialized criminal intelligence unit to assist local law enforcement in conducting intelligence-driven drug trafficking investigations.
The Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center (ONIC), which will operate as part of the Ohio Department of Public Safety in locations in Columbus and Cleveland, will consist of criminal intelligence analysts and computer forensic specialists who will be available to provide investigative, analytical, and data management support to local law enforcement agencies and drug task forces throughout Ohio.
“Local narcotics investigators are exhaustively working to stop the flow of illegal drugs into our state, but they are also facing complex challenges because drug traffickers aren’t only selling drugs in dark alleys, but now, they’re using the dark web too,” said Governor DeWine. “Our new Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center will enhance the work already being done on the local level by giving authorities advanced support in dark web and cryptocurrency investigations, while also offering highly-specialized analytical assistance through the use of a new data-sharing system for Ohio’s drug task forces.”
The new intelligence-driven, electronic platform will allow drug task forces to easily share investigative information on open drug cases to help identify patterns, relationships, and connections between individuals and trafficking organizations statewide. This data-sharing system will also enable ONIC analysts to offer advanced analytics and crime prediction to every law enforcement agency and drug task force in the state.
“Right now, Ohio lacks an information-sharing network for drug cases, so this will be a game-changer for trafficking investigations,” said Tom Stickrath, director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety. “The new system will help local authorities make connections between drug trafficking enterprises operating all over the state. In the future, we hope to further develop the system to as part of a larger data-sharing and analytics infrastructure for every law enforcement agency in Ohio."
The creation of the ONIC and the development of the data-sharing platform are among several law enforcement priorities that Governor DeWine included in Ohio’s new operating budget to support his RecoveryOhio initiative. RecoveryOhio works to dismantle drug trafficking organizations in Ohio while also enhancing mental health and substance use recovery, treatment, and prevention efforts throughout the state.
Governor DeWine also secured funding in the operating budget to create several new Cartel Trafficking Route Interdiction task forces to disrupt the flow of money and drugs from cartels by intercepting fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, and other illegal narcotics coming into Ohio. He is additionally directing new funding to existing drug task forces in Ohio to help them intensify their overall work to combat the drug epidemic.
Representatives from the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association, Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, and Ohio Task Force Commanders’ Association praised the new investigative support announced today by Governor DeWine.
“With this additional funding, local drug task forces will be able to accelerate their results,” said Lorain County Sheriff Phil Stammitti. “Through building new and strengthening existing partnerships with law enforcement across the state, together we will better combat Ohio’s drug epidemic.”
“The analysts and forensic computer specialists within the ONIC will bring a strong focus on trafficking and distribution networks, as well as those using the dark web to bring dangerous drugs into Ohio,” said Bellefontaine Police Chief Brandon Standley. “The intelligence gathered through the ONIC will help guide investigations and help drive the decision-making processes of the task forces.”
“The ONIC will assist Ohio’s narcotic task forces in improving investigative efficiencies and increasing analytic-based evidence,” said the Ohio Task Force Commanders’ Association President Dennis Lowe. “This assistance will act as a force-multiplier during a time of increased caseloads and limited resources.”
In 2018, drug task forces operating as part of the Department of Public Safety’s Office of Criminal Justice Services reported seizing 460 kilos of methamphetamine; 230 kilos of cocaine; 139 kilos of heroin; 97 kilos of fentanyl and fentanyl mixtures; and 63 grams of carfentanil.
A copy of the executive order signed today by Governor DeWine can be found at www.governor.ohio.gov.