I-65 becoming "heroin highway," police say
Police say Interstate 65 is becoming a "heroin highway" - a pipeline of illegal drugs and that a surge in heroin trafficking is leading to a spike in violence, too.
Heroin seizures are up in Marion County nearly 30 percent. Across the state, they're way up - nearly 300 percent. Police say most of that centers on I-65.
"It's gone up an incredible amount," said Sgt. Leonard, who works undercover for Indiana State Police. "For every car we stop and we find (heroin), there's another 500 that go by we don't get."
Indiana State Police troopers say they've seen a 200-300 percent increase in heroin seizures in the past two years. Sgt. Leonard says those numbers are conservative estimates. Many times, the drugs are discovered in hidden compartments in cars during traffic stops on the interstate.
"It goes back to Indiana being the crossroads of America," explained Sgt. Leonard. "I-65's the pipeline, coming straight out of Chicago, which is a major hub for heroin. It brings you down to Indianapolis, which we consider a mini-hub."
Sunday on I-65, troopers discovered five pounds of heroin in a car pulled over for going 100 miles an hour in Jasper County. Troopers also seized four kilos of heroin on the highway recently.
"That heroin came right out of Chicago. We were able to determine it came south on I-65, right to Indianapolis. Then from Indianapolis, it shot out I-74 on the southeast side of the state," Sgt. Leonard said.
But there's another danger - police say what happens on the highway often leads right to our communities. In fact, faith leaders say a spike in heroin use has helped cause a spike in violent crime in Indianapolis.
"Right now heroin is the big drug in the community. It's cheap, cheaper than crack. So what may happen with dealers is you may want to eliminate your competition and that's what leads to the violence," explained Rev. Charles Harrison, of the Ten Point Coalition.
Reverend Harrison says a recent double murder in Indianapolis at 29th and Capitol likely involved rival heroin dealers. He calls heroin trafficking an underground economy on the rise.
"It's really taking a hold of these neighborhoods right now, too. It's easy to recruit people to be involved in selling heroin to make money and other drugs when they don't have employment. If we don't get a hold of that, then it's gonna be difficult to stop this because they're going to do what is necessary to survive out there and make some money," Rev. Harrison said.
State police say a lot of the heroin they're finding now is in such large quantities, that it's worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. To combat the problem, they're training their officers to spot drug activity during a traffic stop and are also making more aggressive patrols.