Law enforcement officials are cracking down on people dealing synthetic drugs in Michiana. The drugs' presence in Michiana has inspired a renewed effort to inform parents about the substances.
Most parents know the warning signs of drug use and know what to look for when it comes to regular marijuana, cocaine and meth.
But synthetic drug packets are small, colorful and look more like candy than a hazardous drug. The battle against synthetic drugs is now two-fold: charge those dealing the drugs and inform the community about how dangerous the drugs can be despite the deceiving packaging.
The laughter emanating from carnival rides and the alluring scent of fair food will be the backdrop to more serious conversations at this year's Elkhart County Fair. Amid the usual vendors, there will be one booth dedicated to teaching parents about a high that doesn't come from the adrenaline of a roller coaster.
"We're going to be putting the time into that booth to make sure the message is getting through," said Vicki Becker, Elkhart Co. Chief Deputy Prosecutor.
There won't be games or prizes at the prosecutor's office booth. Instead, staff will be handing out brochures about the side effects of synthetic drugs.
"This is the poison," Becker said. "This is the stuff that should have the green skull and crossbones that you used to get from poison control. You've got to presume that if your kids are getting this stuff, they are getting poisoned."
Becker said it is all about educating parents so they can intervene with their kids before it is too late.
"The last thing we want is for them to be attending their child's funeral and saying 'I wish I would've known,'" Becker said.
Just last month, the Elkhart County Prosecutor's office charged 11 people after drug raids were simultaneously executed at locations throughout the county. Investigators seized 1,400 packets of synthetic drugs.
Photos exclusively obtained by NewsCenter 16 show garbage bags filled with the packets.
"What's out there is a myth that these substances are not that bad," said Curtis Hill, Elkhart County Prosecutor."The reality is people are dying as a result of taking lookalike drugs. Their minds are freaking out."
"Those who utilize these otherwise legitimate business resources in order to line their own pockets by killing our kids, that's not okay," Becker said.
Becker says they've set an example of what will happen to those who continue selling synthetic drugs in Elkhart County.
"This is meant just as much to deter future behavior," she said.
Hill made his warning to others selling synthetic drugs very clear.
"if we have to take your stores, we'll take your stores," Hil said. "If we have to run you out of business, we'll run you out of business. We cannot, as a community, allow people to profit from selling something that is killing our youth."
For the week of the fair, efforts will turn to reaching out to parents. The prosecutor's office wants parents to know what they need to be looking out for.
"They look like candy, they look like iPhones, they look fun. They look harmless," Becker said. "The problem is the contents of those wrappers are deadly."
Plus, they will be delving into the side effects that come with using synthetic drugs, including seizures, hearts failure and even death.
"Kids don't usually pour bleach down their throat, they normally do not engage with rat poison...if they know what this stuff is," Becker said. "Our goal is to fill them with facts, specific situations, so they understand the real danger."
The prosecutor's office has added information to its website about synthetic drugs and numerous resources for those battling an addiction. For more information, visit www.elkhartcountyprosecutor.com...