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Cops Sweep Up
By:  Mark Tuscano
News Herald


Law enforcement agencies saturate Ashtabula County with patrols, make 512 arrests

A multi-agency cooperative traffic enforcement effort in Ashtabula County over the weekend resulted in 1,467 traffic stops and 512 arrests, including 10 felony arrests.

The sweep was conducted with the cooperation of more than a dozen agencies, including local police departments, the Ohio Highway Patrol, sheriff's departments from Ashtabula, Geauga and Trumbull counties and the Pennsylvania State Police.

The increased patrols began Thursday and continued through 3 a.m. Sunday, said Ashtabula County Sheriff's Lt. Greg Leonhard.  While the majority of the arrests were for traffic violations, a few stops ended in drug-related arrests and one case in which officers served a search warrant resulted in the recovery of six stolen vehicles and the locating of the remnants of a methamphetamine lab.

The combined agencies reported 27 OVI arrests, 13 of which were made in the final hours of the sweep early Sunday morning. In 26 drug cases opened through the enforcement, blitz officers confiscated 127 grams of marijuana, 108 grams of cocaine, 3 grams of methamphetamine and 73 illegal pills, Leonhard said.

In one incident, Conneaut police and other county agencies assisted Pennsylvania State Police during a traffic pursuit that crossed the state line.  "Crime does not observe many borders and neither should law enforcement," said Ohio Highway Patrol Saybrook Post Commander Lt. James Sivak. "This isn't just about criminal activity, it's also about traffic safety. One of the objects this weekend was to tear down borders."  Officers participating in the weekend sweep had an opportunity to share resources and get familiar with their counterparts in other law enforcement agencies, Sivak said.
In one case, the Ohio Highway Patrol provided a helicopter to assist in a pursuit. The helicopter was based temporarily at the Ashtabula County Airport in Denmark Township for the sweep.  The OHP provided as many as 35 troopers and investigative units from throughout Northeast Ohio with up to 15 troopers on patrol at a time, he said.

Planning the operation took about three months, Leonhard said. Marked and unmarked patrol units saturated target zones beginning with the northeast corner of Ashtabula County at Conneaut, Monroe Township and North Kingsville on Thursday. The agencies concentrated in Geneva and the surrounding communities Friday, and on Saturday they began with a sweep of southern Ashtabula County then moved to the city of Ashtabula area, Leonhard said. 

Residents in target enforcement areas were calling the sheriff's office throughout the weekend to find out why they were seeing so many patrols in their neighborhoods, Leonhard said.  "If the citizens noticed it, then we know the criminals did," he said. "That may have been part of the reason we noticed a drop-off in criminal activity from Thursday to Saturday."

The traffic statistics, according to the Ashtabula County Sheriff's Office, included 69 seat-belt arrests, 780 traffic warnings, 552 vehicle defects, and 49 caught driving under suspension. Among traffic violators, 10 were arrested for felonies.

Criminal statistics of those swept up in the traffic enforcement blitz included 11 felony drug cases of 26 total drug cases. Agencies also netted three methamphetamine lab cases, three weapons cases and a total of seven stolen vehicles. Officers executed three search warrants and served five arrest warrants through the sweep, Leonhard said.

Information gathered throughout the sweep may contribute significantly in ongoing or new criminal investigations, said Ashtabula County Sheriff William Johnson.

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