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Law Enforcement fighting opioid epidemic, one traffic stop at a time

Sergeant Ryan Purpura has dealt first hand with heroin addicts(courtesy:NBC 24.com).

OHIO (WNWO)--

Really in this past year I think I've seen more heroin addicts than I've seen in my whole career," said Sergeant Ryan Purpura, Assistant Post Commander of the Bowling Green Patrol Post a the Ohio state Highway Patrol .

It's this increase that has Troopers and other law enforcement ramping up their efforts to combat increased drug usage and other crime. For Sergeant Purpura the matter is personal. He ended up coming to the aid of a former classmate hooked on heroin.

"I realized that it was a kid I went to college with and I remember he was very smart, he had good grades, and he somehow got himself into the wrong crowd."

While the opiod epidemic and the number of people affected is reaching an all time high , law enforcement is responding with their own tactics.

From January to June the Ohio State Highway Patrol made 8,399 drug arrests-- a 12% increase over last year many of them at traffic stops.

"People driving impaired are nodding out, their reflex time is slow and they're not paying attention," said Sarah Heslet, Outreach Specialist at Team Recovery and a recovering addict.

More resources are also becoming available. On Tuesday the state announced a grant for law enforcement focusing their efforts on helping those fighting addiction, like the D.A.R.T. Unity spearheaded by Lucas County Sheriff John Tharpe.

"I feel like we're making a little dent, " said Sergeant Purpura.

However;there’s still work to be done. In a mid-year statement Toledo Police Chief George Kral noted a decrease in crime, but an increase in homicides—many of them revolving around gangs and drugs.

While there’s no quick fix or an immediate solution there are resources available for the community.

A forum hosted by Wednesday night by Harbor Behavioral Health who also has more resources available.

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