Tri-Dent Drug Team Releases Yearly Report, Startling Number of Meth Arrests

"They’re busy all the time. I mean, they’re really busy," Chippewa County Sheriff Mike Bitnar said.

Detectives made an alarming number of arrests on meth-related charged this last year in the Upper Peninsula as a drug enforcement team works to stop it.

The Tri-DENT drug team released their 2016 report. 

The team consists of five departments across Chippewa, Luce and Mackinac counties 

9 & 10’s Blayke Roznowski and photojournalist Noah Jurik break down the report with some startling information.

More than 100 investigations and dozens of people are behind bars.

It’s been a busy year for the Tri-DENT drug team in the Eastern U.P., but numbers from their 2016 yearly report show their efforts are working. 

"It wasn’t until we started putting the numbers together and the team leaders started doing the significant case file and I noticed most of them were either meth-related or they were heroin-related," Sheriff Bitnar said.

There were 123 investigations and 267 charges in a year and 100 of those were meth-related.

The others related to heroin, cocaine, morphine and more. 

"Their focus is all of the opiate prescription drugs, the heroin, the cocaine and meth," Sheriff Bitnar said.

Those investigations led to 84 arrests like Brandon and Joseph Ballas and Brittany Johnson back in July on meth lab charges at a Sault Ste. Marie home. 

Edward Willis Jr., Adam Glaser and Krysta Fike arrested in October, suspected of being involved in a heroin ring. 

Suzanne Jewell recently took a guilty plea for maintaining a drug house, arrested with Rodger Jewell and Cody Power on several drug-related charges in an abandoned Dafter church.

"It would be nice if we weren’t so successful," Sheriff Bitnar said. "That means, you know, no matter how hard you work, you wouldn’t have the numbers we have, but I think we’re trending down."

Those numbers give community members mixed feelings.

"As a father, it’s very disturbing to hear when you’re trying to raise a family in the community and you hear that there’s so many," a community member Jason Swedene said. "I’m thankful, but then again, I wonder who’s not getting caught."

All of those efforts are still not over though as they do have multiple cases pending through different prosecutor’s offices.