Weyauwega fights heroin
Police using traffic stops, searching trash
By Robert Cloud
With a population of just 1,900, Weyauwega does not offer criminals the kind of anonymity found in larger, urban areas.
Over the past two years, however, this small city has experienced a burgeoning drug problem.
The city’s police force of four full-time officers and six part-time officers has made dozens of drug-related arrests.
One arrest occurred shortly before 5 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14.
A woman parked her car in front of the Weyauwega police station and fell asleep.
When Officer Matthew Batte made contact with her, he found 100 syringes and cocaine in her car.
“I’ve had 40 drug arrests and 20 OWI arrests and half of those were drug related,” said Cpl. Adam Rogge when describing his work over the past year.
Rogge places two large plastic bins on a table. They are filled with evidence seized during drug busts over the past year. Needles, scorched tin foil, tiny plastic bags known as gem packs, small twists of aluminum foil called bindles, straws with narcotics residue, pot pipes, plastic spoons and smoking papers are among the evidence of drug use in Weyauwega.
Overdoses lead to arrests
Several of Weyauwega’s drug cases have involved heroin overdoses.
Within minutes of starting his shift at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, Rogge was dispatched to the intersection of Mill and Sumner streets. There he found a man lying on the ground next to the curb. He was unconscious and not breathing.
It took extensive questioning and a search of his girlfriend’s vehicle to uncover that the man, identified as 23-year-old Chad Anderson, allegedly ingested heroin.
In less than six hours, Rogge questioned Anderson and Anderson’s girlfriend, then obtained a search warrant and raided the Main Street apartment of Aaron VanDyke, 26.
The day before Anderson’s overdose, an informant told Rogge that VanDyke was dealing heroin. He estimated VanDyke was selling 10-15 bindles of heroin a week for $40-$45 each.
VanDyke was subsequently charged as a heroin dealer, and Anderson was charged with felony possession of narcotics.
“That was a long day,” Rogge said.
On June 1, Rogge was dispatched to a home on West Main Street, where he found 27-year-old Derek Dankert unconscious on his back in his bed. Dankert’s lips were blue, and his pulse was weak.
Dankert was taken by ambulance to the hospital in Waupaca, then transported to an intensive care unit at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah.
Investigators found a powdery residue on Dankert’s wallet that tested positive for opiates.
Rogge said Dankert told him he snorted a bindle of cocaine the day of the overdose.
On Oct. 27, Dankert was convicted of possession of narcotics and sentenced to one year in jail. It was Dankert’s second drug-related conviction.
A year ago, Weyauwega police were called out to the home of Edward J. Stemwedel, 22, twice on the same night for a reported drug overdose. The second time, Officer Katelyn Dexter found Stemwedel unconscious on the bathroom floor, clutching a burnt spoon with white residue that tested positive for heroin.
On Oct. 23, 2014, Stemwedel was charged with possession of narcotics, felony bail jumping and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Stemwedel was convicted of the misdemeanor paraphernalia charge, but the felony narcotics and bail jumping charges were dismissed and read into the record for sentencing purposes. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
On Jan. 4, 2014, Rogge was dispatched to a home on Alfred Street where he found Steven Dupris, 22, lying on the bathroom floor. His face was blue, he was foaming at the mouth, and he was unresponsive.
Rogge turned Dupris over onto his back and began chest compressions until the paramedics arrived.
After helping move Dupris to the ambulance, Rogge found a syringe, several pieces of tin foil and a spoon with a dried brown powder that tested positive for heroin.
Dupris was charged with possession of narcotics, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, three counts of felony bail jumping and three counts of misdemeanor bail jumping.
On April 16, 2014, Dupris was convicted of possession of narcotics and one count each of felony and misdemeanor bail jumping. He was placed on two years of probation and ordered to participate in any counseling recommended by his agent.
Traffic stops, searching trash
“We know the heroin is here and it’s taking up a lot of our resources,” according to Weyauwega Police Chief Gerald Poltrock.
“For a small agency, we’re being very proactive rather than reactive,” Rogge said. “If there’s a good lead, we get a search warrant.”
If he receives a tip that a Weyauwega resident is selling drugs, Rogge will pick through the suspect’s garbage in order to obtain evidence for a search warrant.
“When somebody puts their garbage out on the curb, there’s no expectation of privacy,” Rogge said.
Rogge was referring to the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court Case, California v. Greenwood, where the majority of justices ruled that under the Fourth Amendment, no warrant was necessary to search the trash outside a home. The defendant had no reasonable expectation for privacy because trash bags left on the side of the street were “readily accessible to animals, children, scavengers, snoops and other members of the public.”
Rogge has found drug paraphernalia and items associated with drug dealing in a suspect’s trash on several occasions.
“We’ve had successful garbage picks where we were able to confirm anonymous tips,” Rogge said.
Traffic stops are another way police are finding drug dealers and users in Weyauwega.
Rogge said a traffic stop in which Officer Dexter reported finding marijuana in the suspect’s vehicle led to a search warrant at the home of Cody Kaminske, 28.
On May 19, Poltrock, Sgt. Brandon Leschke, Rogge and Dexter conducted a search warrant at Kaminske’s apartment on the 400 block of Wisconsin Street.
The officers seized several bindles of heroin, a glass marijuana pipe and a small plastic container with marijuana residue.
Kaminske was subsequently charged and convicted of possession of narcotcs and drug trafficking. He was placed on three years of probation and ordered to participate in any counseling deemed appropriate by his agent.
Searching vehicles during traffic stops has also resulted in drug arrests.
On May 14, Weyauwega Police Officer Curtis Much made a traffic stop on County Trunk F after observing a vehicle with a loud exhaust.
Much made contact with the driver, identified as Derrick J. Pagel, 25, Waupaca, while Rogge approached the passenger’s side of the vehicle.
Rogge recognized a back seat passenger as Danyelle J. Lang, 25, Fremont, whom he had arrested on narcotics and meth charges after a traffic stop in December 2014.
After Lang was taken into custody in December, deputies at the jail reported finding three syringes and a cotton swab with heroin residue in a pouch under her shirt.
When Rogge questioned Pagel about the possibility of finding drugs in the vehicle, Pagel suggested that the other passengers may have needles on them or in the vehicle.
Police reported finding a digital scale with heroin residue under the passenger seat and four unused syringes, a rubber arm band and cotton swabs in Lang’s purse.
Pagel was subsequently charged with possession of heroin with intent to deliver, illegal possession of a prescription drug, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Lang was charged with felony bail jumping and possession of drug paraphernalia.
More felony drug charges were filed against Pagel after he reportedly sold $430 worth of heroin to an informant working with state and county investigators.
Pagel was convicted of two counts of delivery of heroin, one count of illegal possession of prescription drugs and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.
He was placed on three years of probation and given a total of 12 months in jail and 50 hours of community service.
Lang’s drug charges are still pending.
Rogge believes heroin brings other crimes to his community.
“These people aren’t working, and they have to support their habit,” Rogge said. “Burglaries have gone up.”
Noting that heroin is an opiate, Rogge said users are targeting elderly people, either by breaking into their homes or stealing their grandparents’ pain medications.
Rogge said some of Weyauwega’s drug dealers are native to the community, while others seem to be passing through.
“We don’t know if there’s a large number of users who are drawing the dealers here,” Rogge said. “But we’re taking the time to find these people.”