Cops knock one down, and another one pops up.
They’re called “trap houses,” a place where drug dealers peddle their poison. These days, the poison of choice is heroin.
In this report, NBC 4 Investigator Tom Sussi shows you how this life and death game of cat and mouse is played out on the streets of Central Ohio every day.
Spotting a “trap house” isn’t all that tough. They tend to be in low-income areas, with people coming and going all hours of the day and night.
Here’s the issue: by the time you notify police, there’s a good chance the dealers packed up and moved to another “trap house.”
Agent Nathan Emery is with Homeland Security Investigations. He said tracking “trap houses” has “become a daily occurrence for us.”
Sussi also spoke with three people who admitted to selling drugs in Circleville. Wade told Sussi, “You’ve got to keep moving.”
“It’s been quite a challenge for law enforcement,” said Agent Emery. He said it’s a “cat and mouse game.”
Sussi recently rode with Agent Emery through one of Columbus’ hot spots for heroin dealers and users. The West Side. “It’s extremely active,” Agent Emery said. “This is a major distribution point.”
Agent Emery explained, “The West Side is unique in that we’ve got easy access to highways from the north and south, and east and west.”
During the course of his investigation, Sussi said it didn’t take him long to understand why it’s a challenge for cops like Agent Emery to stop drug dealers.
Sussi met up with three Circleville drug dealers at several “trap houses” scattered around the city. Tash told Sussi they rarely stay in one “trap house” for more than a week. “Sometimes every couple of days,” she said.
In an interview with Alec, another drug dealer and heroin user, he told Sussi, “It’s not the police you have to worry about, it’s the neighbors who call them.”
Agent Emery said, “If they don’t have people coming in and out of strange vehicles every day it’s hard to pin them down to one place.”
What isn’t hard for drug dealers to find are “trap houses.” Tash said, “I can wake up tomorrow and be ready to leave, make a phone call and have a place to go.” She said the temporary landlords are usually drug addicts.
Sussi said during another interview at a Circleville trap house, the couple who rented the apartment, was passed out in one of the bedrooms, high on heroin.
Alec explained, “You make an agreement. Like I’ll give them $30.00 worth of crack every day while I’m here. That’s what we do.”
Agent Emery said this hop-scotching from “trap house” to “trap house” is no different than fighting other terrorists. “We’re dealing with cells,” he said. “We break up a cell, and it’s always replaced.”
When it comes to the war on heroin, Tash said the cops are out-numbered. “There’s too many drug dealers, and there’s too many users.”
Agent Emery said, “I wouldn’t say we’re out-numbered. We are putting resources in the right place.”
For obvious reasons, Agent Emery won’t discuss the specifics of where and how resources are utilized. He said local, state and federal agencies are working hand and hand, and they are devoted to locating these “traps houses” before heroin and fentanyl hit the streets. “Every second that we take, is more people who are dying in this community,” Agent Emery said.
It’s a deadly game of cat and mouse. “We’re always one step ahead of them,” Alex said braggingly. “As soon as they figure out our routine, we’ll make another one.”
Agent Emery said, “It never ends.”
If you suspect you might be living next door to a “trap house,” Agent Emery suggest you notify authorities as soon as possible. Agent Emery said to catch and stop drug dealers, it takes the efforts of an entire community.