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Kane Deputy: ‘Connecting the dots’ vital in fight against heroin

Amy RHaSugar Grove listen presentatiawards  closing Chris' Walk Against Substance Abuse held BataviFriday July 20 2012. RHadeputy for Kane

Amy and Ron Hain, of Sugar Grove, listen to the presentation of awards at the closing of Chris' Walk Against Substance Abuse, held in Batavia on Friday, July 20, 2012. Ron Hain, deputy for the Kane County Sheriff's Department, was last year's recipient of the organization's community service award. | Michele du Vair~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 28, 2012 6:05AM

After learning of yet another drug overdose in our communities this week, it’s easy to get discouraged. It’s easy to wonder if, despite ramped up efforts to bring awareness to the heroin problem, we are ever going to get a handle on this scourge killing so many of our young.

John Kacena, a 2010 Neuqua Valley High School grad, died Monday in his home. His mother found him unresponsive in his bedroom that morning; and police discovered heroin-related paraphernalia in the room. Three months earlier, the 20-year-old was convicted of narcotics possession. And one of the young men arrested with Kacena in December spent four days in Naperville’s Edward Hospital after ingesting at least two small plastic bags containing heroin.

It’s an ugly, ugly problem that is destroying good families. But for all of us growing increasingly pessimistic about our chances of wining the war on drugs, I suggest you talk to Ron Hain.

If you’re a drug dealer, you probably don’t want to meet this 35-year-old deputy with the Kane County Sheriff’s Department, especially if he’s just pulled you over for a routine traffic stop. That’s because, even as he’s checking out that improper lane turn, the guy’s doing a little math in his head to see if it all adds up to probable cause for a search of your vehicle.

And there’s a good chance he’ll figure that out, just from the way you are reacting. Of the 400 or so traffic stops he makes a year, he’ll let 90 percent go with a warning because he’s really looking for the 10 percent who have something to hide. He finds it, too. The deputy has compiled quite an impressive resume of big drug arrests over the past couple years. That includes the biggest bust in Kane County when, last summer, he noticed a woman on Interstate 90 in Elgin driving slowly and watching his patrol car closely. So he pulled her over for not using her turn signal and discovered $2 million worth of heroin inside.

Hain, who teaches at the College of DuPage Suburban Law Enforcement Academy and was a narcotics detective with the DuPage County Sheriff’s Department before coming to Kane, says much of what he’s learned is self-taught through years of research and experience on the streets as a patrol officer.

So earlier this year he released his new book, “In Roads: a Working Solution to America’s War on Drugs,” that explains how police at all levels, and yes, even the community, need to be more vigilant in drug detection. He took 100 of these books to the National Interdiction Conference in Tulsa, for cops who deal specifically with drug enforcement on our highways and interstates — and sold out in the first day.

But there’s another component to stopping these drugs before they get into the hands of our young people. Hain has quite a record for seizing exorbitant amounts of drugs. But he also realizes there’s lots of information out there getting lost. Experts have dubbed I-88, I-290 and Roosevelt Road as the “Heroin Highways” because of the drug traffic from the western suburbs into Chicago. But when police make these stops and drugs are found, Hain said, the “information would die on the roadside.” For example, if a St. Charles man goes into Naperville to buy drugs and is busted, St. Charles never knows about the arrest, nor do the sheriff’s departments in either county.

And so, two weeks ago he rolled out, a website he created that provides a data base for officers to input this information. The police-access-only site includes the arrested person’s name, what kind of drugs are seized and how much, as well as what town the suspect is coming from and going to. In essence, it’s helping police “connect the dots.” The site, he insists, not only notifies officers immediately of any criminal activity in their towns, it motivates officers to become more active and points to trends in their communities.

And it’s all free — although Hain could certainly use donations in helping to keep his expenses down.

The new Web site, Hain says proudly, already has 60 police officers signed up in DuPage, Kane, Will, Cook, McHenry and Jo Daviess counties, as well as several out of state locations. His hope is for the project to go national.

In addition to Hain’s desire to stop drug trafficking on the streets and highways, he’s also involved with Chris’ Walk — named after Chris Foley, another young heroin fatality — that raises awareness and money for rehab programs. Hain’s next project with this group is to introduce a program through the Kane County Drug Court that teams up recovering users with businesses willing to give them a job and a better chance to stay clean. (More on that to come.)

Certainly it’s easy to get discouraged when reading the stats about heroin use in our towns; or about yet another young person dying from an overdose. John Kacena’s mother Caroline, the day after finding her son’s body, spoke with a Sun-Times Media reporter about her desire to help educate other parents so they have the tools for more awareness.

Hain agrees education remains paramount, not only for parents and the communities, but for police as well.

“We have an active solution,” he said. “We just have to put the pieces together.”

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