In introducing Kosciusko County’s newly formed Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET43) and its commander, Doug Harp, on Monday, law enforcement officials asked for the community’s involvement.

“The ... things I really want to emphasize ... without the community’s input and help, we’re kind of dead in the water. ... So please, please encourage your readers and families and friends to pick up the phone. It’s real easy to do. You can also call CrimeStoppers ... That information is all going to get funneled to us, so please help us help you,” Harp said.

The tip line for NET43 confidential tips is 574-372-2494 and email is net43@kcgov.com. A texting line is in the works.

“I do encourage all of the community to use the phone number ... because law enforcement depends on that information as well,” said Kosciusko County Prosecutor Dan Hampton, noting that it can be confidential and that usually is the way law enforcement gets its best information.

As prosecutor, Hampton will oversee NET43’s operations.

The panel at the multi-agency press conference introducing NET43 included Kosciusko County Sheriff Kyle P. Dukes, Hampton, Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer, Indiana State Police Lt. Chad Larsh, Warsaw Police Chief Scott Whitaker and Winona Lake Town Marshal Joe Hawn.



Elite Team

Dukes said over a year ago when he decided to run for sheriff he knew he wanted a “unified multi-agency drug task force.”

“I wanted an elite group of men to be a team and work together. I wanted this elite group to communicate with all law enforcement agencies. I wanted this group of men to talk and share information with all law enforcement agencies,” Dukes said.

He presented his idea during a monthly police chiefs meeting and didn’t have to talk them into it, he said. They all wanted the same thing.

He said when it was time to look for a commander for NET43, many names came up but Harp’s name kept coming up. In late October, Harp came from Noble County to Kosciusko for an interview and the committee of seven unanimously chose him.

Harp has over 30 years of experience in law enforcement, with the last eight years as a two-term sheriff in Noble County, Dukes said.

Hampton said he knew Harp through Harp’s special operations assignment in Allen County when Harp was with Noble County Sheriff’s Department and assigned to Allen County as a special operations officer with its drug task force.

“So his experience in the large municipality with the drug investigations is going to be essential and important with the way we are operating in this county,” Hampton said. “Then with his supervisory experience as a two-time sheriff, just think about that and setting up the NET43 and helping out the officers and making sure those operations are worked effectively and efficiently.”

“We are thrilled to have Doug on our side,” Dukes said.



Epidemic Proportions

NET43 includes officers from the ISP, WLPD, WPD, KCSO and “outside help” from the Nappanee Police Department, Dukes said, calling it a “phenomenal” team.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have never seen this before in Kosciusko County. We have never seen this. This elite team has been established and moving forward and we’re two weeks into this thing. They’ve done more week in two weeks than I thought they’d do in two months. It’s working. It’s absolutely working and we’re excited about the direction that this is going,” Dukes said.

Hampton thanked all the agencies in the county in addressing this need in Kosciusko. “We needed the unified drug task force again and it’s been set up in a manner that is going to be very efficient and effective,” he said.

The drug situation in Kosciusko County is one of “epidemic proportions,” Hampton said.

“The drug crimes in this county go deep. Go deep, and not only in crime statistics, across the board – not just drugs but from drugs you get all the other collateral crimes such as theft, burglary, batteries. You get all the other crimes that enhance off the drugs, so that affects us as a community,” Hampton said.

The drug problem also economically affects the community, he said, in the context of the health situation of the offender and the victims “and all the other governmental affairs” that have to be in place in order to deal with these type of offenses.

Bottom line, Hampton said, there also are families involved with drugs. “We have rehabilitation measures that need to be addressed for the drug offender, as well as the victim, but moreso with the drug offender that we can treat the behavior and try to encourage the behavior to be modified in the context that it doesn’t reoffend,” he said.

Drug dealers need to be identified so they can be held accountable, he said. “They need to be held accountable for the spreading of the epidemic in our community,” he said.

Thallemer said, “The epidemic proportion knows no bounds. Families are destroyed by this problem. Our community resources are severely, severely strained by this problem. There’s a huge negative impact on our workforce because of this problem.”

Huge Help

The NET43 cooperating agencies have provided a “huge” help to the point where they’ve donated work staff, Hampton said.

“And this work staff, that just doesn’t fit the personality of these agents. These agents in NET43, most of them are seasoned drug officers and they’ll be able to carry the intelligence that they’ve had over the past several years of their experience into NET43, and the team, as the sheriff indicated, is an elite team,” Hampton said.

He thanked the agencies, municipalities, county and county officials who have allocated monies for NET43. “Without them, we wouldn’t even have NET43,” Hampton said.

He later added, “The agencies that are involved right now in NET43, we have discussed the idea ... that we’re going to involve other agencies in the rotation. You can understand that when you’re just working drug detail as a priority, you get burned out. So we’re going to have a rotation basis of those officers so we don’t have to have burnout and also so we can train and offer experience to other officers in other agencies that are in Kosciusko County so that we can expand that way as well.”

NET43 is assigned special operations, including vice and drugs, but more so drugs, Hampton said.

Whitaker said WPD has two experienced investigators that have been working drug cases for a number of years now; and Winona Lake has a representative on NET43.

As for ISP, Larsh said it will have two “true” undercover officers, supplemented by two additional “very experienced” drug investigators. As needed, road troopers will assist.

Dukes said KCSO has one undercover deputy on the beat along with Harp. By the end of this year, he said he wants to add another deputy on the team.

Hampton said from his office there is one deputy prosecutor or himself assigned to NET43 24/7 365 days a year. “So we’re on call for them all the time, as well as helping put together cases,” he said.

Costs & Procedures

As for funding NET43, Hampton said, “The fees are split with the agencies that are involved, depending on the workforce that they’ve generated into the program. The prosecutor’s office also is using diversionary fees so those fees are generated through that. I don’t think we have any independent accounts that are set up for the agencies. It’s just the agencies are responsible through their employee or employee costs. So it’s the officers’ pay.”

Hawn said NET43 already has a grant in place and is applying for another one soon to be able to assist with the program. “There’s a lot of grant money out there if we just search for it.”

If a road officer has a traffic stop or other incident that involves drugs, or they have a suspicion that drugs are involved, their report will be forwarded to NET43 through the system that is set up, Hampton said.

“So even if NET43 is not involved in that specific operation, they will be involved because of the information that is gathered from the other agencies. NET43 will have independent investigations and independent cases that are generated either by themselves or by other agencies bringing in intel from their agencies into NET43. With the presence of the different agencies that are involved, the county is covered by jurisdiction bounds. The jurisdiction bounds by themselves, with the agencies that are involved, which are all of them, then we’ve got no problem with separation of jurisdictions,” Hampton explained.

Larsh added, “There will be a call-out procedure if a road officer deems that he needs to further beyond his ability. We’ve got a lot of great officers that work the streets, days and nights. Their abilities are all on different levels though. Some of them are newer, some of them are experienced. So if they reach a point in their traffic stop investigation, we will have officers available for on-call or assistance should they need to come out in the middle of the night.”

K-9s from agencies involved could also play a part in the investigations.

A data base will keep track of the cases that NET43 works, as well as the operations that results in arrests and convictions, so the productivity of the team can be tracked.