law enforcement

Safe Communities wants happy & safe ending for New Year’s celebrations

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The numbers on impaired driving are nothing to celebrate. This year, 31 percent of the fatal crashes in Wood County involved impaired driving, said Sandra Wiechman, the Safe Communities coordinator for Wood County at a press briefing Thursday. Sgt. Shawn Fosgate, assistant post commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Bowling Green Post, said that the percentages of accidents, 30 percent, and arrest related to OVI, 10 percent, remain constant. With more incidents that means “the numbers are going up.” That’s a trend that Wiechman, Fosgate, BG Police Chief Tony Hetrick, and the other partners in Wood County Safe Communities Coalition work year round to reverse. For the fifth time Safe Communities will start the year by sponsoring Swallow Your Pride, Call for a Ride. Those who feel unable to drive on New Year’s Eve can call 419-823-7765 from 11 p.m. Dec. 31 through 4 a.m. Jan. 1 and get a ride through the initiative. The program has supplied more than 600 rides in its first four years. Wiechman said three vans – two provided by the Thayer Family Dealerships and one by the Committee on Aging – are available to get people home from parties and bars safely. “If you plan to drink, don’t drive, and if you plan to drive, don’t drink,” said Edgar Avila, president and CEO of AAA Northwest Ohio. Planning ahead is important, Wiechman said, “so you don’t decide when you’re impaired. … It only takes one time for a tragedy to happen.” The Swallow Your Pride program is just one option for a safe ride home. There’s Super Cab and ride sharing services, such as Uber or Lyft, where available. There’s also the friend who serves as a designated driver. “There’s no reason to drive impaired driving in Wood County or Bowling Green,” Wiechman said. Wiechman said that being impaired because of alcohol or drugs are not the only problems. She urged people not only to give their keys to someone else if they were drinking, but give their phone to someone else if they’re driving. Wearing a seat belt is the best way to reduce the chance of a fatality in an accident, she added. Impaired driving is a major problem, she said. Two out of three people will be involved in an OVI accident in their lifetimes. Someone dies because of impaired driving every 15 minutes….


911 system will take text messages by late next year

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Next year at this time, Wood County residents should be able to text messages to “911” to get help during an emergency. Wood County and others partnering in the local 911 system are investing about $1 million to upgrade the current emergency system. Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said the existing 911 system is at the “end of its life,” so the upgrades are necessary. But along with the expensive upgrade comes a valuable addition, the sheriff said. Once completed, the new system will allow people in need of emergency assistance to text a message to 911. “I’m really excited about it,” Wasylyshyn said. “It will allow someone who doesn’t want to be heard to text us.” That could include someone hiding from an intruder or someone who wants to alert law enforcement without others knowing. The texting option will also allow someone to communicate with dispatchers from a very noisy location, he said. “This could be used by someone who is a victim of domestic violence, and texting from a closet,” the sheriff said. “I’m really excited about what this will allow for victims.” Photographs can also be texted to 911, where they can then be forwarded by dispatchers to law enforcement and EMS crews who will be responding to the scene. The new system will also allow dispatchers in the communication center to send back texts to the person who sent the emergency 911 message. Wood County will be the second county in Ohio to have the technology in place to allow for 911 texting. Delaware County is expected to have its upgrades in place early next year. Wood County’s upgrades will be made throughout 2018, with the texting technology to be completed by the end of next year. “We’ll be the first in this area to get this,” Wasylyshyn said. “I think it’s a great step forward.” The Wood County Commissioners approved an appropriation last week for the 911 upgrade at the sheriff’s office. The upgrade contract is spread over five years, costing just over $1 million. Sharing in this cost are Bowling Green State University ($56,211), Ottawa County ($166,680), and Sandusky County/Clyde ($215,513). Following is some information about texting 911 from the Federal Communications Commission: Texting during an emergency could be helpful if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, or if a voice call to…


Old prescriptions adding to opiate crisis – 5 sites accepting drop-offs year-round

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Across the U.S., many household medicine cabinets have old pill bottles tucked away … just in case they are needed later. That tendency to save prescriptions is adding to the opiate crisis in the nation, according to local law enforcement, public health and education leaders. An estimated 75 percent of opiate addictions start with prescription drugs. “One piece of our heroin problem is in our medicine cabinets,” Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said Wednesday during a press conference at his office. Once people no longer need their prescribed medications, many have the habit of hanging onto them. “I’m just going to hold onto this till I need it someday.” But too often, those drugs are found and used by someone other than the original patient. So local officials in Wood County have established safe drug disposal boxes in five locations that are available year-round and round-the-clock to people wanting to dispose of old drugs. National Drug Take Back Day is Oct. 28, but the Wood County Educational Service Center, Wood County Sheriff’s Office, Wood County Health District, and some law enforcement chiefs throughout the county want to offer disposal sites 365 days a year. “We cannot make significant gains in combating the drug epidemic by simply taking back our unneeded prescriptions one or two times a year,” Kyle Clark, director of prevention education at the Wood County Educational Service Center, said. “Our community needs to take action now.” The Drug Enforcement Administration approved permanent drug take-back boxes in Wood County are located at: Bowling Green Police Division, 175 W. Wooster St. Perrysburg Police Department, 300 Walnut St. Perrysburg Township Police Department, 26611 Lime City Road. North Baltimore Police Department, 203 N. Main St. Wood County Sheriff’s Office, 1960 E. Gypsy Lane Road, Bowling Green. The drugs are collected from the boxes by the DEA, which incinerates them. “If people would be diligent in cleaning out their medicine cabinets, they can take advantage of these boxes we have around the county,” Wasylyshyn said. “This will go a long way in keeping youth from getting hooked on painkillers,” Clark said. Wood County Commissioner Ted Bowlus presented a proclamation at the press conference, declaring every day as a drug take-back day in Wood County. “This proclamation symbolizes the fight” against opiate addiction, he said. Last year alone, at least 4,149 people died in Ohio from…


Sheriff Wasylyshyn eyes putting more drones on duty

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As special deputy Larry Moore walked across the lawn in front of the Wood County Sheriff’s Office, the hovering drone caught his every move. Even as he zig-zagged under a group of trees, the infrared camera showed the glowing image of Moore. “It could be pitch black outside and we could see him,” Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said. The new drone purchased by the sheriff’s office is an elite – and expensive – version of the small drones that buzz the skies. This is more of an “industrial drone,” that has an infrared and a regular camera, can withstand high winds, is water resistant, can fly at night, has a range of four miles, is able to fly 40 mph, can fly as high as 400 feet which offers a square mile of coverage, and has a collision avoidance system. The DJI Matrice M210 drone came with a price tag of $23,000. But a donation of $9,000 from Michael McAlear, a special deputy and friend of the sheriff, helped the department purchase the Cadillac of drones. “That made the difference, so we could get an upgrade,” Wasylyshyn said. The sheriff is now considering the possibility of purchasing multiple smaller drones that can be deployed quickly by each shift of the road patrols. “Eventually, drones will be issued with your shotgun,” he predicted. The smaller drones come with smaller price tags – about $1,000 each. They could be used in crises where time is critical, such as a river rescue. The smaller drones, that weigh no more than 1.5 pounds, can be deployed in less than a minute. They can also fly inside buildings, which would allow the sheriff’s office to get an eye on a situation without endangering staff. The small drones can spot someone hiding or someone armed inside a building. By the end of the year, Wasylyshyn hopes to have a couple of the smaller drones on duty. Any of the drones could be used to help in searches for runaways or people with dementia who have wandered from home. The sheriff’s office new drone has already been used to help find a suspect who fled from the Fostoria Police. The drone was able to spot him in a woods. “Another success story,” said Sgt. Greg Panning, who is one of four people on the department trained to operate the drone….


Sheriff to try free phone to reduce wayward released inmates

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Sheriff’s Office plans to change its jail release procedures in response to freed inmates walking to neighboring facilities to get rides home. Last week, a Toledo man released from the Wood County Justice Center walked across East Gypsy Lane Road to Wood Haven Health Care. Douglas Pribbe, 52, was reportedly looking for a phone so he could get transportation home. Since the nursing home is in city limits, Bowling Green Police Division was called after Pribbe was reportedly causing problems for the nursing home staff and visitors. Pribbe was advised by police to not return to Wood Haven. “They just release them,” Bowling Green Police Major Justin White said of the jail. “It doesn’t surprise me, if they don’t have a ride, they are probably trying to get someone to pick them up.” This is not the first time for a released inmate to visit another agency or business near the jail, Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said. The sheriff has gotten reports of ex-prisoners going to Snook’s Dream Cars, Wright Auto, Mid County 120 EMS, Wood Lane, and other county offices on East Gypsy Lane Road. “They are no longer under our control,” once they are released from jail, Wasylyshyn said. Upon release, all inmates are given a three-minute calling card that they can use in the phone in the lobby of the justice center. “Every single one of them,” gets a card, the sheriff said. But many of them walk out without making a call, Wasylyshyn said. “I wish I knew why they aren’t using that calling card – unless they just want to get out of our facility,” he said. But when Wood Haven reported this latest incident, the sheriff decided to have a phone installed in the lobby of the justice center that can be used at no cost. “We’re going to try that to see if that minimizes the problem,” he said. “We’re hoping that reduces the number of people” who visit neighboring businesses once released. That may also decrease the number of released inmates who walk along Dunbridge Road to Meijer, White said. Bowling Green police have been called multiple times to respond to Meijer for freed inmates. “For everything from loitering around, to asking people for money or for rides,” White said. “We’ve arrested people for shoplifting, then they go to Meijer…


Opioid addiction is the talk of the town

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News State Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) was understating matters when he said last Wednesday that the opioid epidemic has “a lot of people talking.” He said this just as a “BG Talks: Heroin and Opioids in Bowling Green and Wood County” was just getting underway at the Wood County District Public library. The moderator for the panel discussion Kristin Wetzel, began the session painting a bleak picture of the crisis nationwide, 948,000 overdoses in 2016, and 13,219 fatalities. These numbers are enough to get anyone talking. On Thursday afternoon, State Rep. Robert Sprague (R-Findlay) convened a roundtable of state politicians, law enforcement officials, and treatment experts to discuss the crisis. This Wednesday, Sept. 20, the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce will host a seminar on the epidemic. See details here. Both Gardner and Sprague noted that the legislature has done more than talk about the issue. In a budget year when the legislature faced tight finances, it budgeted an increase of $178 million more to combat the epidemic. Still, Gardner said, frustrations over the progress remain. Eight years ago, Belinda Brooks, of Solace of Northwest Ohio, got “a crash course” in the issue. Her then 18-year-old daughter became hooked on opioids after a serious ATV accident. She was prescribed Percocet and Vicodin. Having some self-esteem problems, the daughter suddenly realized “she was the life of the party when she took them.” That led to heroin. And at 19 she got pregnant, and even that wasn’t enough to get her to kick the habit. Charlie Hughes, of the Northwest Community Corrections Center, said of addicts “their brain has convinced them they need (the opioid) to survive.” “My life changed,” Brooks said. Afraid she would fall apart, she reached out to other parents in her situation, and formed the support group Solace. “I made many mistakes,” Brooks admitted. “I hid her addiction. I thought I could fix her. … When it comes to addiction all your parenting skills go out the window. You need to get them into treatment.” And that means being tough. “We encourage people not to enable,” said Aimee Coe, of the Zepf Center. That means being vigilant in spotting the symptoms. Brooks said she was confused why her daughter carried so many long handled cotton swabs. They are used to filter heroin. Track marks are a sure sign, but Brooks noted, heroin…


Commercial drivers play part in keeping roads safe

From WOOD COUNTY SAFE COMMUNITIES Wood County Safe Communities announced today (Sept. 6, 2017) that there have been 10 fatal crashes in Wood County compared to nine through this same period last year. September 10-16, 2017 is National Commercial Vehicle Appreciation Week. Please take a moment to honor all professional drivers for their hard work and commitment in tackling one of the economy’s most demanding and important jobs. These men and women are not only doing their jobs but also working to keep our highways safe. Also, September 17-23, 2017 is Child Passenger Safety Seat Awareness week. In Wood County, there has been a fatality involving a child under the age of 13 in calendar year 2017. It is essential for parents to make sure child safety equipment in their vehicles is current with state and federal regulations and installed properly. Child safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers. Car seats are most effective when installed properly and used correctly. Residents of Wood County are encouraged to contact either Wood County Hospital or Safe Kids of Greater Toledo to schedule a car seat inspection. For More Information:  Lt. Angel Burgos, Ohio State Highway


After losing stepson to overdose, Dobson offers hope to others

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The horror of the opiate epidemic is not some distant tragedy for Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson. “Last year, 14 months ago, I lost my stepson to this crap – opiates,” he said Tuesday to the Wood County Commissioners. His stepson, who was 37 when he died of an overdose in Colorado last year, had struggled with opiates, recovered, then relapsed. As part of treatment, he went through an Ohio Means Jobs program in Toledo, which gave him an opportunity to go to University of Toledo, where he earned certification. The program gave him gas cards, a lap top computer and helped with car repairs. “They were taking away every excuse to fail,” Dobson said. But eventually, his stepson – who moved to Denver for a job – overdosed and died. “He couldn’t let the ‘dragon’ go,” Dobson said. Though his stepson was ultimately not helped with intense programming, Dobson is hoping that others will be. “There’s always hope. My faith doesn’t allow for me to not have hope,” he said. According to the Wood County Coroner’s Office, 16 people died of opiate overdoses in the county last year. In response to a survey of local first responders, 16 departments said they responded to 83 opiate overdoses last year, and administered the life-saving drug Naloxone 60 times. And in the last 18 months, the county prosecutor’s office has seen about 130 drug cases. Dobson presented this hopes to the county commissioners Tuesday in the form of a four-tiered plan for dealing with the opiate epidemic in Wood County. The plan calls for the creation of a quick response team, a pre-trial diversion program in the prosecutor’s office, an intervention in lieu of sentencing program in the courts, and the establishment of a drug docket in the courts. But in order to put this program in motion, Dobson first needs a grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for $150,000 over two years. And in order to get that grant, he first had to convince the county commissioners to agree that they will foot the bill after the grant funding runs out if the program proves to be successful. Lucas County already has its DART (Drug Abuse Response Team) program in place. That program provides immediate responses to calls about opiate drug abuse. “At 2 o’clock in the morning, they have somebody…


Holiday drunk driving turns celebration into tragedy

From SAFE COMMUNITIES OF WOOD COUNTY This year, as we celebrate our country’s birthday, thousands of families take to their cars, driving to neighborhood cookouts, family picnics, and other summer festivities. Sadly, some of those families’ Independence Day will end in tragedy, as too many irresponsible people decide to drink and drive. Unfortunately, their bad choices have lasting effects on families. For as many good memories as the Fourth of July holiday can provide, it can also create devastating nightmares for families who lose a loved one due to drunk driving. During the 2015 Fourth of July holiday period (6 p.m. July 2 to 5:59 a.m. July 6), 92 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving a driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher, and 146 people died in crashes involving at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a BAC of .08. In fact, from 2011-2015, 39 percent of all traffic fatalities over the Fourth of July period occurred in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. Join us for a family friendly event on July 3, at the Perry Field House Parking Lot beginning at 8 p.m. Enjoy games, prizes, and the chance to interact with Bowling Green Fire and EMS plus officers from the Bowling Green State University Police Department. Activities continue until the fireworks begin at 10 p.m. Have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July. Please designate a driver and make it home safe.


BG cracks down on ‘deplorable’ house on Wooster

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The house is the problem child on the East Side – 1014 E. Wooster St. Neighbors have reported trash, a recliner and a mattress piled in the front yard. This past weekend, the college students living there had a TV “blaring” in the front yard. The inside of the house has also had its share of problems, according to records kept by the city. “It is unfortunate that conditions like this exist and there is so little regard for community values and people who reside in the neighborhood,” Mayor Dick Edwards said during Monday evening’s city council meeting. The owners of the house, Ronald F. and Mary Jo Trzcinski, live in Holland, Ohio. The city has recorded two pages of complaints and official responses to the “deplorable conditions and appearance” of the house that sits to the east of Crim Street across from Bowling Green State University. “It’s enough to make your head spin,” Edwards said. The mayor made several trips to the property over the weekend, and East Side advocate Rose Hess continued to monitor the site. “I think it’s time to take the gloves off with this property,” Edwards said. Over the last few years, the city’s police division, fire division, code enforcement officials, and Wood County Health District have intervened. Each time they have asked the owner to cleanup or repair items, the Trzcinskis have done just enough to comply. This past weekend, Hess recorded more problems at the property. “Last night we drove past there and a 36-inch flat screen TV was blaring in the front yard.  (Interior furniture prohibited outdoors) and lots of bottles and trash galore while they had a party,” Hess reported. The landowners have been unresponsive to the East Side neighborhood concerns. “East Side sent a nice letter to owners last year with supporting photographs and never heard back from them,” Hess said. So on Tuesday, city staff and county health district officials met and decided to “drastically increase the level of enforcement,” said Joe Fawcett, assistant municipal administrator. Also City Prosecutor Hunter Brown sent a letter to the owners Tuesday, saying “No more warnings will be given. We’re going straight to citations,” Fawcett said. Following is a list of some of the problems at 1014 E. Wooster St. recorded by the city over the past year: June 28, 2016 – Complaint regarding trash around…


Keeping peace: Courthouse security duties may be divided

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In order to keep the peace, it appears the duties of securing the Wood County Courthouse Complex may soon be divided. Though the plans have not been finalized, it looks like the current court constables will continue to provide security in the courtrooms, jury rooms, adult probation and domestic relations. However, Wood County Sheriff’s deputies will take over the atrium entry, the county office building, the rest of the courthouse and the grounds. “I have always suspected it was my duty to do that,” Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said about his office providing security. The issue came up last month when Chief Constable Tom Chidester retired after 20 years of his department securing the courthouse complex. The current security program was devised cooperatively by the commissioners, judges, sheriff and other county elected officials in the mid 1990s, when the county was trying to meet the 12 requirements of the Ohio Supreme Court. The court security officers perform several functions like scanning people and packages entering the court complex, standing guard during trials and providing general security functions. But upon Chidester’s departure, Wasylyshyn questioned whether his office should take over the court security role. The county commissioners and judges favored continued use of the court security officers. But Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson said the issue is not whether or not the current court security system is serving the county well. “The question isn’t whether it’s working,” he said. “The question is whether we are following the law.” Wasylyshyn said Dobson was strong in his statement that it is the sheriff’s responsibility to keep peace in the courthouse. Wood County Common Pleas Judge Matt Reger said the proposed division of responsibility is consistent with how Dobson read the requirements. Dobson said Ohio law provides for the courts to have constables and a chief constable if the judges desire in their courtrooms. “The opinion of the judges is we want to keep what we have had in place for 20 years in the courtrooms,” Reger said. But the law also requires the sheriff have charge of the courthouse under the county commissioners, Dobson said. He sees the sharing of duties as “complimentary and not necessarily competing.” However, as of Tuesday, the county commissioners had not been told of the proposal that both the court security and sheriff’s deputies provide security, according to Doris Herringshaw, president…


County salutes police who lost lives while on duty

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The bell sounding the last alarm was rung 12 times Thursday for the 12 law enforcement officers in Wood County who have died in the line of duty while serving local citizens. Dating back more than 120 years, the officers lost their lives to gunfights, car crashes and drowning. “We are reminded how dangerous it is each and every day,” Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards said to all the law enforcement members attending. The Wood County Commissioners thanked those who gave their lives for the citizenry. State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, spoke of an Ohio Highway Patrol trooper who died 50 years ago when he was in pursuit of two speeding vehicles on the turnpike near Ohio 795. He was just 22 years old. “Obviously police officers face dangers every time they put on their uniforms,” she said. Gavarone was critical of the media for inaccurately portraying law enforcement, by focusing on the negative not the positive actions by police. “I wish some attention would be paid to the good things you guys do,” she said. Gavarone mentioned two pieces of legislature affecting law enforcement and first responders. House Bill 115 is designed to improve communication between law enforcement and motorists with communication problems. The bill creates a system for information on drivers with communication difficulties to be accessed by law enforcement as soon as a vehicle is stopped. The other legislation increases penalties against people who harm first responders and other emergency workers as they respond to incidents. “Our police officers should be given all the tools possible to do their jobs effectively,” she said. Gavarone also praised the work of the local Fraternal Order of Police, for their efforts with children doing Christmas shopping, fishing and holding movie nights. “We all owe people like you and Trooper Birchem an immeasurable amount of gratitude,” she said. Following is a list of the 12 law enforcement members in Wood County who died in the line of duty: Patrolman Jesse Baker, North Baltimore Police. On June 19, 1896, Baker and his faithful dog responded to the post office as three men were breaking in. During an exchange of gunfire, Baker was shot and died as a result of his injuries. Marshal Frank Thornton, Perrysburg Police Department. On Dec. 28, 1905, Thornton was told that five wanted individuals were at the Krauss Restaurant,…



Safe Communities reviews five fatal crashes

Wood County Safe Communities held their quarterly Fatal Data Review on Tuesday, April 4. Five crashes were reviewed from the first quarter of 2017. The crashes reviewed were:  Rte 6 at Wapakoneta Rd.  2111 E. Wooster St. in Bowling Green  I-280 at Mile Post 1  Curtice and Wheeling in Northwood  I-75 at Mile Post 170 The countermeasures established as a result of these crashes are as follows:  Always wear your seatbelt  Do not drive at an excessive speed  Always be attentive when driving  Always obey all traffic control devices  Do not drive impaired  Always secure children properly in approved Child Restraints For more information, please contact Lt. Angel Burgos, Ohio State Highway Patrol, at 419-352-2481


Mazey to launch Task Force on Sexual Assault

Bowling Green State University President Mary Ellen Mazey has announced the university will form a Task Force on Sexual Assault. The task force will include “students, faculty, staff and a victim advocate to review our policies and procedures for Title IX and sexual assault, benchmark our efforts against best practices across the country, and provide recommendations to improve the campus culture and our policies. In addition, the task force will examine our services for supporting sexual assault victims and evaluate our awareness and prevention efforts.” In announcing the task force Mazey wrote: “I greatly appreciate the concerns you have shared over the past week regarding the issue of sexual assault on campus, support services for victims and the processes we have in place today to report and investigate assaults. I want you to know that I hear your concerns, and I, along with others, will address them. “I respect and understand that it takes tremendous courage to report a sexual assault. When a sexual assault occurs, it’s not only a crime perpetrated on the victim, but it’s an assault on our entire University family. As a community, we must all come together to prevent assaults from occurring, make sure victims are properly supported, and continue to ensure that our investigative processes are thorough, fair, equitable and respectful.” The task force will be co-chaired by: Meg Burrell, undergraduate student trustee on theBoard of Trustees; Alex Solis, a former student body president and current staff member in my office; and Dr. Maureen Wilson, chair of the Department of Higher Education and Student Affairs. The full statement follows. May 1, 2017 Dear Students, Faculty and Staff: I greatly appreciate the concerns you have shared over the past week regarding the issue of sexual assault on campus, support services for victims and the processes we have in place today to report and investigate assaults. I want you to know that I hear your concerns, and I, along with others, will address them. I respect and understand that it takes tremendous courage to report a sexual assault. When a sexual assault occurs, it’s not only a crime perpetrated on the victim, but it’s an assault on our entire University family. As a community, we must all come together to prevent assaults from occurring, make sure victims are properly supported, and continue to ensure that our investigative processes are thorough, fair, equitable and respectful. I know there…