ANOTHER VIEWPOINT: Operation Columbus Day reveals scope of drug problem

This editorial was originally published May 23 in The (Columbus) Republic. 

We knew Bartholomew County’s drug problem extends past its borders, but over the past several weeks, the reach of the issue has become much more clear.

“Operation Columbus Day” has led to more than 60 arrests — including at least 36 federal indictments and 23 local prosecutions — since police first started dismantling a drug trafficking network in the Columbus area in 2018.

By the first week of April, law enforcement had collected around 114 pounds of methamphetamine, 4 pounds of heroin/fentanyl and 28 pounds of marijuana along with 115 firearms as part of the investigation.

The drug bust, the biggest in the county’s history, is alarming on several fronts, but particularly in where the drugs are coming from and how arrests are continuing to be made.

These drugs aren’t all homegrown, as investigators say they’re tied to a Mexican drug cartel. They’re cheap and potent, and are being transported hundreds — if not thousands — of miles to Columbus.

Almost a month after police revealed their operation, six more individuals were taken into custody on May 7 in connection to ongoing drug trafficking in Bartholomew County.

These drugs are more than likely playing a role in our local overdose numbers. This year, 13 cases have been investigated for drug overdoses by the coroner’s office. Last year, there were 17 during this same period.

While a large one, the sad reality is this group isn’t the only supplier of deadly, illegal drugs in the area.

It’s unclear who is supplying the drugs, but Columbus city officials also put out a warning last week that they’ve recently seized more than 100 counterfeit Xanax pills on the streets. These pills, believed to be made in Indiana, also contain fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and is used for its heroin-like effect.

Bartholomew County has a complex drug problem that’s far-reaching, and there’s no simple way to fix it.

Thankfully, numerous new recovery services have opened over the past year to help citizens while police continue to put dealers behind bars.

Hopefully the recent arrests will lead to lower drug activity, and more people will get the help they need.

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