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Drug crime fuels record number of felony cases PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 03 January 2018 19:43

Ozaukee County tops the 400 mark in 2017

    The Ozaukee County District Attorney’s Office filed a record number of felony cases in 2017, breaking the 400 mark for the first time in the history of the county.
    The increasing number of cases — 404 felonies filed in 2017, up from 391 in 2016 — is a reflection of increasing crime in communities once thought to be insulated from theft, burglaries and robberies, and there’s no question what’s driving it, District Attorney Adam Gerol said.
    “There’s no doubt that most of these cases are drug related,” he said.
    It’s not necessarily that the number of charges against drug dealers has skyrocketed, Gerol said, but that ancillary crimes committed by drug addicts willing to rob and steal to finance their insatiable appetites for heroin and other drugs have.
    “The burglaries, thefts from cars, robberies — that’s all drug related,” he said. “I doubt that the number of actual drug deliveries or drug possessions has changed that much. It’s all the other crimes related to feeding drug addiction that have increased.”
    The problem is two-fold. The opioid addiction epidemic has not spared Ozaukee County, and its proximity to Milwaukee County puts it at the doorstep of a seemingly endless supply of easily obtained heroin and other drugs.
    “The problem is we’re living directly north of a major metropolitan area that is way too much of a drug conduit,” Gerol said.
    “The reality today is that Milwaukee drug dealers don’t even have to drive anywhere to sell their products. The users just come to them.”
    Adding to the challenge of defending Ozaukee County’s southern border against drugs is a different philosophy toward prosecuting drug crimes in Milwaukee County, where drug treatment courts give offenders the opportunity to participate in programs as an alternative to serving time in prison, Gerol said.
    “You can’t prosecute yourself out of the drug problem, but you have to make enough arrests and make enough cases that you restore the risk to the drug transaction,” he said. “Ten, maybe 15 years ago, we began pivoting away from traditional law enforcement and toward rehabilitative practices. Maybe we needed more of that, but we went too far and it’s not working.
    “If someone is lacking a moral compass, the fear of getting caught can take the place of that. But if you don’t have a moral compass and you’re not afraid of getting caught, then there’s no deterrence.”
    Gerol has taken a more aggressive approach to combatting drug crime, and because drug dealers don’t have to leave Milwaukee County to sell their products, Gerol and the Ozaukee County Anti-drug Task Force occasionally come to them.
    The results are conspiracy to sell drug charges filed against dealers who may never have set foot in Ozaukee County. In such cases, an undercover officer typically arranges to buy drugs from a Milwaukee drug dealer, making it clear that the drugs are for a customer in Ozaukee County.
    In recent years, Gerol has also filed several homicide charges against dealers accused of selling drugs that have led to the overdose deaths of users in Ozaukee County under the Len Bias law, which is named for the University of Maryland basketball star who died of a cocaine overdose two days after being drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1986.
    Among the two people charged under the Len Bias law in Ozaukee County last year was Davion J. Poe, a 26-year-old Milwaukee man accused of selling heroin to Taralyn Hibbard, who was found dead in the bedroom of a trailer park home in the Town of Grafton on July 10 just hours after her father drove her to Milwaukee to buy drugs. Hibbard was 32.
    The case, and others like it, illustrates how the Milwaukee drug trade fuels addiction in Ozaukee County.
    According to the criminal complaint filed against Poe, Hibbard’s father told authorities that his daughter had bought heroin from a dealer named Cheese. When asked how he knew that, Mr. Hibbard said he drove her to Milwaukee to buy the drug as he usually did once or twice a week, according to the complaint.
    Mr. Hibbard said that on Sunday, July 9, he drove his daughter to 60th Street north of Good Hope Road, where they met Cheese. He said his daughter got into Cheese’s car and purchased $60 of heroin, which he described as “really potent,” the complaint states.
    Mr. Hibbard said he and his daughter went home, where she gave him a “line to snort.” He said she kept the rest of the heroin, adding that “she always did a lot,” according to the complaint.
    Mr. Hibbard said the last time he saw his daughter was midnight the day she died.
    Working with agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Mr. Hibbard, the Ozaukee County Drug Unit set up two undercover drug buys in which Mr. Hibbard purchased heroin from Cheese, who authorities identified as Poe, the complaint states.
    Poe is being held in the Ozaukee County jail in lieu of $50,000 bail. His case is scheduled to be tried in March.
    Whether drug related or not, retail theft cases are also on the rise, a reflection of an increase in shoplifting and a change in state law that lowered the threshold for felony charges, Gerol said. And in many cases, the people charged in the cases are from outside Ozaukee County.
    “People come to Ozaukee County to take advantage of our big box stores,” Gerol said. “Then they just hop on the freeway and are gone.”
    Making headlines last year were charges filed against Shaubay D. Harvey and Gail A. McCurry, both 37 of Milwaukee, who are accused walking out of the Grafton Target store with $1,400 in merchandise they didn’t pay for, then abandoning their 11-year-old daughter on Thanksgiving night when they fled police.
    “Who would be stupid enough to just push a full cart out the door, but they do it,” Gerol said. “And most of the time they don’t even bother with creating a distraction. They just walk out the door and to their car.
    “My favorite one is from a few years ago where this group had a little kid push the cart of stolen merchandise out of the store for them.”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 January 2018 19:46
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