Updated: 2:05 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010 | Posted: 11:03 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010

Lower costs have turned Dayton into a distribution hub for heroin

Those looking to buy, resell coming to area neighborhoods.

By Doug Page

Staff Writer

DAYTON — When the RANGE task force kicked down the door at 35 Oxford Ave. earlier this month, they found a house-full of sophisticated, high-powered firearms, drugs and $40,000 in cash.

And they upset a mid-level cocaine and heroin distribution ring operated in Dayton that reached into Springfield.

“These men were highly involved in the (drug) trade. ... This is a business, and these guns are the tools of the trade,” said James Dier, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent. “They arm themselves and take over neighborhoods. It’s all about firepower.”

Carlton Morice Adams, 30, and Tyrrelle Robinson, 22, remain in the Montgomery County Regional Jail on federal detainers. Both have drug and weapons convictions.

“Heroin sellers have a tendency to be violent,” said Dayton police Lt. Mike Wilhelm, commander of the Fifth District, which includes the Oxford Avenue house.

For residents of the Fifth District, especially along the northern end of Salem Avenue, the heroin trade is bringing more outsiders into their neighborhood.

“There’s a lot of traffic from Richmond, Ind., Sidney, Troy, Piqua and Greenville,” Wilhelm said.

The Richmond connection

Lt. James Branum, head of special investigations for the Richmond, Ind., police department, said 75 percent of the undercover buys his officers have made over the past year were heroin. And that heroin is coming from Dayton, according to the users and dealers arrested, he said.

“Last week, one of our officers discovered 54 caps of heroin during a traffic stop,” Branum said. “We have people driving to Dayton to buy heroin both for their own use and to resell. ... The price is just so cheap.”

Richmond residents regularly appear on Clayton police reports. Most often they are arrested in a Salem Avenue convenience store where they use the restrooms to shoot up.

Doing the math

In Dayton, heroin is sold for the most part in gel caps. A cap weighs about 0.10 grams and sells on the street for $10. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, the typical price for heroin in the United States is $131 a gram.

That would put the street price of a gram of heroin in Dayton at around $100, about one-quarter less than the average street price nationally.

The reduced price is being driven by supplies from Mexico. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2010 National Drug Threat Assessment, estimated Mexican heroin production increased by 342 percent from 8.6 metric tons in 2004 to 38 metric tons in 2008.

The Dayton hub

Law enforcement officials say Dayton is the hub for a vast network that stretches to the outer reaches of the Miami Valley.

“We’ve seen an increase (in heroin) from Grand Lake Drug Task Force enforcement,” said Wapakoneta Police Chief Russel Hunlock.

Capt. Chris Anderson of the Troy Police Department, said, “We used to see heroin very infrequently, but this year it seems as if we see it weekly. It’s just easier to come by.”

Like his colleagues, Anderson believes the heroin is being purchased in Dayton.

Wilhelm, a veteran street officer who still makes arrests, said heroin is more dangerous to users than crack and other drugs. “They have no idea what they are putting in their arms,” he said.

Ken Betz, director of the Miami Valley Regional Crime Lab, said a “substantial number of overdose deaths list multiple drug intoxication” as the cause of death. How many of those “drug cocktails” contained heroin is unclear, though national numbers indicate heroin is often involved.

According to the lab, Montgomery County had 147 overdose deaths in 2008, including 25 that listed heroin as the cause. The numbers went down slightly in 2009, when there were 126 overdose deaths and 20 directly attributed to heroin. So far this year, the county has reported 73 fatal overdoses, 13 involving heroin.

That’s at least 58 heroin deaths in less than three years from Montgomery County alone.

“It seems like everybody knows a dealer in Dayton,” Richmond’s Lt. Branum said.


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