KOSCIUSKO — A press conference was held this afternoon, March 25, to introduce NET43, Kosciusko County’s newly formed Narcotics Enforcement Team.
NET43 is comprised of officers from the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office, Indiana State Police, Warsaw Police Department and Winona Lake Police Department. Together, they form a new task force that has been operational for around two weeks.
Kosciusko County Sheriff Kyle Dukes led the press conference and introduced the program. “Over a year ago when I decided that I was going to run for the sheriff’s position, I knew I wanted a unified multi-agency drug task force. I wanted an elite group of men to be a team and work together … it wasn’t that I needed to talk the police chiefs into it because they wanted the same thing, they wanted the same thing … they wanted to fight this fight together.”
Kosciusko County Prosecutor Dan Hampton acts as the on-call deputy prosecutor for the task force.
“As you all know, we have a situation in Kosciusko County in epidemic proportion with drugs,” said Hampton. “The drug crimes in this county go deep … we need to identify the drug dealers because the drug dealers need to be held accountable — they need to be held accountable for the spreading epidemic in our community … NET43 is going to be a great thing.”
Warsaw Mayor Joseph Thallemer spoke about the impact of the drug epidemic on the local community. “The epidemic proportion knows no bounds. Families are destroyed by this problem. Our community resources are severely, severely strained by this problem. There’s a huge negative impact on our workforce because of this problem,” said Thallemer. “We’ve just exponentially improved our ability to investigate with the collaboration and cooperation of this group of folks that are now working together.”.
The team is led by NET43 Commander Doug Harp. Harp recently retired from Noble County Sheriff’s Department after 23 years of service, spending the last eight years as sheriff.
“Cooperation between agencies like this is essential for law enforcement and we are off to the very, very best start,” commented Harp. “The nice thing about having people from all different agencies, and even me coming from a different county, is we’ve got point of contact with people from all across the state. As you know, drugs don’t stop at the city line or county line so the points of contact with as many different people we have on board — already that’s paid dividends for us.”
Harp encouraged the public to submit tips. “Without the community’s input and help, we’re kind of dead in the water … Please, please encourage your readers, your family and friends to pick up the phone. It’s really easy to do … Please help us help you.”
Tips can be submitted by calling the tip line at (574) 372-2494 or emailing [email protected]
“We have never seen this before in Kosciusko County, we have never seen this,” said Dukes. “We are two weeks into this thing. They’ve done more work in two weeks than I thought they’d do in two months. It’s working. It’s absolutely working and we are excited for the direction this is going.”
Also in attendance during the press conference were Warsaw Police Chief Scott Whitaker, Indiana State Police Lieutenant Chad Larsh and Winona Lake Police Chief Joe Hawn.