Those honored with Law Enforcement Agency Directors Awards include:
• Cpl. David E. Watts,Trooper First Class James J. Lulkovitz and Trooper First Class Thomas K. Plunkard of the Pennsylvania State Police for saving the life of an 8-month-old by fatally shooting the man who held the kidnapped girl at knifepoint and used her as a shield.
• Detective Lynn Ann Havelka, Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, for spending seven months chatting, texting and messaging with a 62-year-old California man.Edward Hilts thought he was grooming a 14-year-old girl and traveled from San Diego to Pittsburgh to have sex with the girl.
• Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric S. Rosen, who obtained the conviction at trial of two drug-trafficking defendants in two separate conspiracies this year.
• Deputy U.S. Marshal Jeremy DeLano, for efforts that resulted in the arrest of Rodney Howard, a homicide suspect.
• Senior Special Agent Benjamin M. Cornali, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, for investigation of several individuals involved in the unlawful manufacturing and distribution of illegal explosives.
• Special Agent Michael P. Radens of Homeland Security Investigations, responsible for the indictment and arrest of 27 individuals who perpetrated wide-ranging financial schemes.
• Special Agent Philip G. O'Connor, Internal Revenue Service, for investigating complex corporate fraud and income tax evasion.
• Special Agent Sean Langford, FBI, for leading a multi-agency team investigating Joseph Graziano Jr., for several complex financial fraud schemes valued at $3.3 million.
• Officer Brett Whittenberger, Allegheny County Police Department, who neutralized bomb threats made by a local area high school student.
• Detective Jerry Kabala, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, for disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations in Duquesne that led to 30 arrests.
• Special Agent James R. Long, Jr., U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, for investigating two Postal Service employees for defrauding the federal workers' compensation program of $2 million.
• Special Agent Daniel Fisher, Secret Service, for investigating a fraudulent investment scheme; $2.2 million eventually went to victims of the scheme.
• Postal Inspector Staci M. Johnson led an investigation into the individuals responsible for placing false magnetic swipe readers on automated postal center kiosks in Pittsburgh.
• Detective Richard M. Dwyer Allegheny County Sheriff's Office, for helping to clear 201 warrants and arrest 134 fugitives.
• Chief Deputy Attorney General Michael M. Ahwesh, Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, for overseeing 17 separate interceptions of electronic and wire communications in four investigations.
• Pittsburgh Police Detectives James Glick, Eric Morton, Michael Mares, Dawn Mercurio and Jeffrey Brock, for breaking up a series of street robberies in Sheraden in July and August.
Investigators are still looking for the original source of last winter’s deadly batch of fentanyl-laced heroin that killed nearly two dozen Western Pennsylvanians, U.S. Attorney David Hickton said Friday.
“It’s an ongoing investigation,” he said, and officials remain committed to finding the drug.
Hickton spoke after a ceremony to honor several dozen area law enforcement officers for breaking up criminal operations ranging from drug rings to electronic financial scams.
In a weeklong period in January, 22 people died from overdoses linked to the heroin-fentanyl mix. Fentanyl is a powerful narcotic used to treat pain in cancer patients.
Increased abuse of opioids — both prescription drugs and heroin, which is cheaper — is a constant challenge for law enforcement agencies, Michael Botticelli, acting director of National Drug Control Policy, said Friday at the Law Enforcement Agency Directors of Western Pennsylvania awards at the University of Pittsburgh.
The ceremony honored more than 30 law enforcement officers from the state police, Pittsburgh police, the IRS, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s office and Allegheny County.
Botticelli, the White House’s drug czar, and others praised cooperation among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in fighting drug trafficking. Yet drug abuse is rampant nationwide and requires flexibility on the part of law enforcement, he said.
“We know we can’t arrest and incarcerate our way out of this problem. Our nation’s drug problems should not fall entirely on law enforcement,” Botticelli said.
Prevention and drug treatment need to be part of the solution, he said.
Botticelli supports laws like a new one in Pennsylvania that makes naltrexone, an antidote for heroin overdoses, available to police and the public.
The legislation, which takes effect in December, offers immunity from criminal prosecution to those who help overdose victims.
Naltrexone, commonly referred to by the brand name Narcan, reverses the effects of heroin and opioids like oxycodone. Pennsylvania allows paramedics and doctors to use it, but police were not able to legally administer the antidote.
In 2011, Quincy, Mass., became the first U.S. city to require police officers to carry Narcan.
Since then, Botticelli said the drug has saved 300 people in that city.
“Surviving an overdose depends on timely treatment,” he said.
Of the 41,502 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2012, 53 percent were related to pharmaceuticals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Western Pennsylvania, largely driven by Allegheny County, averaged fewer than 60 overdose deaths a year in the 1980s, but had 290 in 2012. The number dropped to 278 last year.
Though the Obama administration is tolerating state laws that have legalized recreational use of marijuana, Botticelli does not support legalization like that which voters approved this week in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia.
“It’s against federal law. We have every reason to fear how this burgeoning marijuana industry is targeting youth,” said Botticelli, who said marijuana use among teenagers is now more common than tobacco use.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.