WHITEHALL, Ohio (WCMH) — In Whitehall, the war on drugs is a battle bookended by the police and fire departments.
The fire department offers addicts unprecedented, unmatched access to detox and rehab facilities no questions asked.
Police officers target the sellers much like they did last Friday as neighbors watched.
“I was scared. I was day caring my kids and I’m holding them down and I hear pow, pow, pow, pow, pow,” said a woman who didn’t want to be identified.
That neighbor says she’s never seen anything like it.
“In my life and I’m from New York,” she said.
More telling, the police chief in Whitehall, which has seen its share of crime, echos the sentiment.
“Since I’ve been here and since the rest of the officers in this building that we’ve talked to have been here, they’ve never seized this many guns on a single incident yet,” said Whitehall Police Chief Mike Crispen.
Whitehall Police Narcotics officers, investigators with the Columbus Police Department’s INTAC unit and Bexley Police officers were executing a search warrant at a Shore Boulevard Apartment Friday when they seized 73 firearms, nearly half of them armed and loaded.
Five of the guns were reported stolen.
They also seized about 5,500 rounds of ammunition, a few thousand dollars cash and heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana.
The bust fulfills the type of challenge that Crispen said initially drew him to the job in 2016 and to a force that’s long been in the thick of an ongoing war on drugs and the type of crime that accompanies it.
“Our violent crime rate is coming down and it’s going to continue coming down as long as we’re doing things like this here,” said Crispen.
As cops squeeze out suppliers, Whitehall Fire Chief Preston Moore said the department’s Stop Addiction For Everyone, or S.A.F.E. program, gets users into rehab no questions asked and with no financial or legal charges earned.
“Your average person walks in the door and if we screen them and they meet the criteria for detox, we’ll take them right there,” said Moore.
A team approach police said extends to residents as well, from the few who assist to all who benefit.
“I feel safer, He had people coming all night, all day, banging on doors. Shootings?”
Following Friday’s bust, officers arrested Terry Swartz and charged him with drug possession and having weapons under disability.
Swartz was arraigned Monday and is behind bars on a $5 million dollar bond.
Swartz pled not guilty and is due back in court Oct. 11.
Police said Swartz will face further charges including Trafficking in Drugs, multiple counts of Having Weapons under Disability and Receiving Stolen Property.