Editorial: Cooperation boosts sheriffs in fight against drug abuse
Working together helps sheriff's offices in fight against illegal narcotics
While our nation grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid epidemic worsened.
More than 100,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States from May 2020 to April 2021, according to provisional data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's an alarming 28.5% increase from the prior 12 months.
Our local communities are not immune to the ongoing opioid crisis. However, through cooperation, two suburban police departments are strengthening their ability to fight the problem.
The DuPage and Kane sheriff's offices have entered into a new agreement that allows them to work together to go after the sources and suppliers of opioids and fentanyl.
"Drug addiction doesn't have jurisdictional boundaries," DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick said. "What we're dealing with in Kane, DuPage and other counties is the same. It's rising drug usage."
Synthetic opioids -- primarily illegally manufactured fentanyl -- continue to be a primary driver of the rise in overdose deaths. And the problem is not contained within county borders. So, it makes sense for different departments to team up to target the suppliers.
As part of their agreement, Mendrick and Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain will have street-level tactical teams work cooperatively on both sides of the counties' boundaries.
"When you look at the trafficking infrastructure of Chicagoland, it flows east and west through both of our counties," Hain said. "This allows us to stem the flow of illicit trafficking."
Hain and Mendrick understand that a multitiered approach is needed to combat the opioid crisis.
Both departments have extensive rehabilitation programs inside and outside their jails. At the same time, the sheriffs agree that enforcement is needed to stem the flow of illegal narcotics.
"If you're incarcerated, we are going to try to help you with your addictions," Mendrick said. "But if you're one of the ones creating the addictions -- and you're dealing poison to our children -- you're the target of investigation and arrest."
The departments have collaborated before to combat crime. Officials say the new agreement is simply another example of them sharing resources.
Still, Hain and Mendrick deserve praise for their commitment to fighting opioids. They realize that driving down drug addiction reduces crime and saves lives.
They also know that by working together, they can achieve more success than they would by themselves.
Let's hope other sheriff's offices in neighboring counties take notice. They could join in with Kane and DuPage or form similar partnerships of their own.