Investigator honored for drug workA Superior police officer was honored Monday for his work targeting drug traffic in the Twin Ports.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
A Superior police officer was honored Monday for his work targeting drug traffic in the Twin Ports.
Investigator Timothy Monte was presented with the Enrique S. Camarena Award by the Superior Elks Club. The award is given in memory of Camarena, who was killed in 1985 while working with the Drug Enforcement Administration to expose a major drug trafficking operation. Red Ribbon Week is held each year in his memory.
“We have three investigators that are working narcotics right now,” said Superior Police Chief Charles LaGesse. “They’re all doing a great job.”
The chief said he was happy to nominate Monte.
“He’s done a great job with the Lake Superior Drug Task,” and “been a part of some important investigations there.”
Monte joined the department in 2003 and was assigned to the task force in 2010. Over the past year, he played a part in two significant busts.
“Operation Pills in a Box” focused on distribution of the prescription drug Opana.
“We indicted 27 people in the area,” Monte said. “Some of the main players, however, were right here in Superior. In fact, the two main distributors were right here in town.” Both were indicted in federal court. One was sentenced to 20 years, the other to 17 years in federal prison.
More recently, operation “Brown Stone” resulted in the arrests of more than 25 people involved in distributing heroin.
“In Superior we recovered $40,000 worth of heroin and two handguns, one of which was stolen from a burglary in Carlton County,” said Monte, who spearheaded that effort.
How prevalent are drugs in the Twin Ports?
“We buy drugs on a daily basis all over the area, Duluth, Superior, Cloquet, everywhere,” Monte said. “I don’t want to scare anybody. It is there.”
People in the community tend to turn a blind eye to drugs and their effect, said Cris Crum, lecturing knight for the Elks Club. Many people think it’s a victimless crime, but they’re wrong.
“It’s linked to violent crime that’s directly connected to the drug dealing,” LaGesse said. “It’s linked to so much property crime that is done to help feed the habit.”
Even the people using drugs are victims.
“They become addicted and hooked and their productivity, their chance of leading a happy life really takes a nosedive with the use of illicit drugs,” LaGesse said. “It’s very important that we educate people and put a deterrent on those who would sell drugs in our community by letting them know that there’s a good chance you’ll get caught and you’re going to do real time. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Tackling addiction is another important component in breaking the cycle.
When Monte started with the task force, oxycontin traffic was high in the area. A new formula pill came out, one that was difficult to abuse, and Opana became a big narcotic in the area. Opana abuse has been linked to at least one death in Douglas County, Monte said. Following the Opana crack down through operation “Pills in a Box,” there was a shift to heroin traffic.
“As long as there’s a need, there’s going to be a provider,” Monte said. “Somebody will step up to take over for somebody who was knocked off as long as there’s that need. So we have to address that whole issue of treating people so they can overcome their addiction else it will never stop.”
Tips from the public play a key role in narcotics investigations.
“If the public thinks that there’s a drug problem next door, very likely is … We need to know that so we can focus on that,” Monte said. “More times than not those tips turn out to be legitimate tips that there’s some kind of drug activity going on.”
This is the first time the Elks Club has presented the Enrique Camarena Award. Crum, who is also the chairwoman for the organization’s drug awareness, hopes it won’t be the last.
“The children in schools need that information — so they know what they’re dealing with,” she said. “Even the people just in the community need to know what we’re dealing with … it hurts everyone in community.”