La Crosse area task force uses collaboration to track down drug operations

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — Every day, officers across the state are collaborating to take down drug operations.

In our area, The West Central Metropolitan Enforcement Group connects five local counties and allows them to work together.

Heavy drug use affects all of us.

“Once it’s here, and what it does to these communities: the thefts, the burglaries, the child neglect, the abuse. The stuff just skyrockets,” said Robert Walensky, the investigative coordinator for WCMEG.

This isn’t just a problem in La Crosse.

Lieutenant Nate Clarke, an executive officer for Wisconsin’s State Patrol, knows it well.

“Narcotics distribution is essentially just like any other distribution of commodities,” Clarke said. “They’re brought into hub locations, generally those are going to be the biggest cities, then they’re broken into smaller amounts and distributed out to smaller distributors and dealers.”

And at the street level, local officers like Walensky keep watch in neighborhoods.

“It only really takes a, relatively speaking, small amount of drugs to cause a lot of problems in a little town,” Walensky said.

While state troopers keep watch on the interstate.

“It’s really on the trooper or inspector or any law enforcement officer for that matter, to speak with the occupants of the vehicle and look for drug activity,” Clarke said.

Those searches– on the interstate and in town– can lead officers to a larger operation. But they can’t find it alone.

Inter-county collaborations are essential.

“To be effective, you have to reach outside your area,” Walensky said.

They use county connections to reach out across the country and tackle the source.

“Logically, you deal with the guy that’s bringing in the two pounds, then you don’t have to deal with all these people here with the gram they’re getting from him,” Walensky said.

Without these connections, change would not be possible.

“We’ve got to do better. And that’s what we’re trying to do every day. Just get better and make a difference,” Walensky said.

Walensky also says they have not seen or heard of rainbow fentanyl being in the area.

Still, as overdose numbers rise in the state of Wisconsin, Walensky says a common source for those is fentanyl. Because of its potency, it often is laced in other substances without users knowing it.

Fentanyl test strips are widely available for those in need. La Crosse County has them throughout the community.

More information can be found on the county’s website.