Illegal weapons arrests by state patrol jump

Illegal weapons and drug arrests by the Ohio State Highway Patrol jumped significantly in 2013 after the law enforcement agency directed patrol officers to be on the lookout for potential criminal activity when making traffic stops.

Illegal weapons arrests rose 39 percent from 383 arrests in 2012 to 550 arrests in 2013, according to data from OSP. Drug arrests were up 26 percent, rising from 7,644 arrests in 2012 to 9,615 in 2013.

Sgt. Vincent Shirey, a spokesman for OSP said the increased arrests reflect the agency’s efforts to make Ohio safer.

“We want to focus on everything at a traffic stop, not only traffic safety but any other education or enforcement efforts that we can come across,’’ Shirey said.

He said officers have been told to take more time during a traffic stop to ask more questions.

Shirey said the majority of illegal weapons arrests involved people who were carrying a weapon without a proper permit. Ohio law requires anyone carrying a concealed weapon be licensed, Shirey said. He added that most other arrests involved motorists driving drunk while in possession of a weapon.

“Because the use of illegal firearms is problematic across the country, highway patrol and state police departments are putting more emphasis on awareness at traffic stops,” retired Lt. Keith Barbier, president of the American Association of State Troopers said in an email statement.

Warren County had the third highest number of illegal weapons arrests in 2013 by OSP with 31 cases. Cuyahoga County was first with 49 arrests and Franklin County was second with 34.

“It’s not just solely about illegal weapons. We want to make Ohio better and safer by removing illegal drugs from the roadways as well,” said Shirey.

In 2013, five counties accounted for one quarter of drug arrests by OSP, Shirey said. Butler County ranked fifth with 342 arrests followed by Cuyahoga (686), Franklin (593), Hamilton (383) and Lorain (369).

These counties are home to large metro areas, Shirey said. “You have more people, more things going on,” he said.

Shirey cited one other benefit to the increased enforcement. The state had it’s safest traffic year in recorded history, he said.

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