Gov. Mike DeWine created the Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center with an executive order on Wednesday.
The center will be the first unit in the state dedicated to incorporating intelligence and data analysis into drug trafficking investigations.
That includes doing things like track cell phone records and conducting video and voice analysis. But DeWine said a large focus of the center’s work will be monitoring the dark web and tracking cryptocurrencies used to purchase drugs online.
“These are areas where local task forces, local law enforcement by and large do not have the depth, do not have the ability to provide this type of work, and so we are going to be providing that to them," DeWine said.
The intelligence center will expand local investigations by analyzing evidence provided by offices throughout the state. It will also develop a statewide, comprehensive information-sharing database.
With those resources, officials hope that officers in one city will be able to connect the dots between different drug trafficking cases elsewhere in Ohio.
Bellefontaine Police Chief Brandon Standley says the effort will free up space for local law enforcement to conduct "more productive policing."
"That's why this is important for small communities all over the state, and big, it doesn't matter what size," Standley says. "Through partnershpis, collaboration, teamwork and ongoing dedication to this work, our communities are safer."
The recent two-year budget allocates a total of $9.75 million annually for drug investigations. Of that, $3.4 million will go to the new center, while $600,0000 is set aside for the information-sharing database. The rest will go to new task forces and other projects.
Benjamin Suver, director of law enforcement initiatives, says that intelligence work goes on across the country as a "force multiplier" for law enforcement. But he said he wasn't sure if any other states have programs like this one, particularly in how Ohio's center pairs intelligence and computer forensics.