One one hand, Noble County Sheriff Doug Harp isn’t proud of the headline, but on the other, he is.
The drug problem is nothing to laugh about for sure, but it’s his Department’s knowledge of the drug and their ability to find it in the area that is worth bragging about.
Harp spoke about the dangers of the drug during Monday’s Huntertown Lions Club meeting at Huntertown United Methodist Church. The meeting was attended by members of Lions Clubs from New Haven, Churubusco, and Auburn, as well as members of the Huntertown Town Council and Town Superintendent of Utilities Tom Gongwer.
“The most important thing is for people to get involved,” stated Sheriff Harp. “They don’t have to get involved in the sense where they are actively working with police, but to pick up the phone if they see something. They know their neighborhoods better than I do. If they see something that doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. All they have to do is make a phone call and that really helps us. There are a lot of things that we can do with investigations to get somebody that is cooking meth or selling meth.”
Harp said that Noble County traditionally ranked in the top five of the 92 counties in the State of Indiana in meth labs, and while Allen County is less rural than Whitley, Harp said the drug is a growing problem in the county.
“This is by far the worst of the worst in the drug culture. People need to take an active approach to try and help their communities and help us. It is not going to go away any time soon,” he added. “Most drugs are cyclic. They grow in popularity and then will go down. That is my hope, that this thing will level off and start down the other way. If people get involved and help us, that is a step in the right direction.”
Harp’s presentation centered around the ingredients and methods involved in cooking meth, warning signs of people using the drug, the amount it costs to clean up areas in which the drug is found, and what the long-term effect of the drug is.
“It sounds like it is all over,” Town Council President Jim Fortman said. “There probably is some in the area, although we hope not. It is nice to know what to look for. For our employees, who are out in the field, mowing yards and in ditch banks, to know what to look for. It was enlightening to see just how portable it is, how dangerous it is, and how widespread it is.”
Harp said that $50 million was spent on cleaning up meth labs in the United States in 2003 and that a regular size basement costs $10-20 thousand.
In Noble County, Harp said standard traffic stops are often the first domino to finding mobile meth labs.
Presently, both Noble and Allen Counties utilize drug courts, which provide intensive treatment and services and require offenders to not only get clean, but stay clean. Drug Courts include random testing, frequent court appearances for reviews, and rewards for doing well.
“You have to look outside the box and look at programs like Drug Court to try to give these people a chance to make it when they get back out, because eventually, they are going to get back out,” Harp said. “We take a very hard line on it.”
Harp started his work fighting narcotics as an undercover narcotics officer in 1995, when he also became a member of the Allen County Drug Task Force.
Harp told stories of his first undercover “drug deal” being moved from a Fort Wayne hotel to the parking lot of the old Spiece store on Coliseum Boulevard. He also spoke about arresting a fellow officer for his negative involvement with the drug.
“With narcotics, nothing surprises me anymore,” Harp exclaimed. “It’s a constant struggle and we need help. It’s a huge community problem that costs us all.”