Drug smugglers get creative hiding merchandise

Posted at 7:03 PM, Mar 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-11 19:03:30-05

Cutting the tires, unbolting seats, altering the glove compartment--just a few ways drug dealers are hiding their illegal merchandise.

Trooper Jim Baker for the Ohio State Highway Patrol said he’s sometimes surprised at what he finds.

“The sophistication of some of the drug couriers out there is definitely enhanced from what it used to be 20 years ago,” he said.

The ingenuity drug mules are using high-tech methods of concealing contraband, which is making the jobs of Ohio police officers much more challenging.

“We try to be as proactive as we can, unfortunately at times; we’re one step behind the game,” said Lieutenant Michael Combs of the OSHP.

One example is a black pickup truck that was stopped in Medina County. Six kilos of cocaine were hidden in the tail light of the vehicle and officers had to use a sequence of complicated switches just to unlock it and get the drugs out.

They had to first turn the car on, then hit the defrost, put their foot on the emergency brake, adjust the seating, and then finally the taillight opened, revealing the drugs inside.

“That was a very professional job,” Combs said.

“Usually it’s an illegal sell or operation of drug couriers that actually hire their own mechanics to put the hidden compartment inside the vehicle,” said Baker.

Recent stats show Ohio has recently become a major drug trafficking spot, with Columbus being the ‘drug hub’ in the state.

The officers told me their main focus was on interstate 71, which is where a lot of contraband comes in from the southwest and heads east.

To get a glimpse of what these troopers see every day, I went on a ride along with OSHP. And what I realized when it comes to moving from here to there, dealers spare no expense to keep their stash secret.

“Some of the current trends that we’re seeing right now is people transporting narcotic loads in car haulers and then the manufactured of hidden compartments,” said Baker.

So how do they equip themselves to deal with new drug transportation trends?

Combs explained, “We do have tool kits and there are times when we have to disable parts of a vehicle...our officers are well trained, we try to stay as current as we can…so we network with other agencies across the country."

And while nothing materialized from the traffic stops we saw, Combs told me that's normal, because drug trade traffic can be unpredictable.

“It’s kind of like the needle in the haystack, you’re out there stopping cars…it’s just a matter of again, there’s so many cars out there and few of us.”