GREEN BAY – An investigation into a widespread heroin ring continues, and FOX 11 is learning more about how drug use is sparking other serious crimes.
This week, 12 suspects appeared in Brown County court in cases that appear to be connected to what prosecutors call a large heroin distribution conspiracy.
Prosecutors say the operation has been going on for about a year, and there were multiple levels of involvement.
The assistant district attorney has not filed formal charges against any of the suspects, however, she briefly laid out her case.
The court documents for the cases have so far been sealed and kept secret.
Police did not release specific numbers, but say drug crimes leading to other crimes is on the rise.
“This individual was involved in a conspiracy to deliver heroin,” said Brown County Assistant District Attorney Wendy Lemkuil on Thursday.
Lemkuil said Alexander Sundling sold the drug as part of a large operation.
“He was not identified as one of the primary suppliers, but was one of the middlers that was involved in this,” Lemkuil said in court.
In arguing for bond, she pointed to Sundling’s pending robbery charges.
“Robberies that he was conducting, a clear sign of what the state regularly argues, that this type of level of a highly addictive drug like heroin leads to other alarming crimes,” Lemkuil said.
Green Bay police arrested the 20-year-old last week in connection with two business robberies.
Police say on May 25th, Sundling robbed a Subway on South Huron Road.
On June 7th, he allegedly robbed a Subway on East Mason Street.
Police say Sundling told investigators he robbed the two Subway stores to fuel his drug addiction.
“That addiction is fierce. They can’t help themselves,” said Captain Jim Runge.
Runge says heroin users are more frequently committing crimes to get their next fix.
“Thefts, burglaries, robberies, walking into somebody’s garage. Whatever they can do to get some money,” said Runge.
The increase in criminal activity inspired the area’s Heroin Response Initiative.
“All of the addiction centers have come together to try to encourage those who are connected to crime and connected to opiate addiction to change their lives,” said Libertas Treatment Center Director Barbara Coniff.
Libertas is working on a pilot program with the Brown County Jail. It aims to help people suspected of a crime that involves opiate addiction.
“That incarcerated individual is asked to sign a release of information to have a conversation with a counselor about treatment,” said Coniff.
Coniff says about 40 percent of those who accept treatment are able to stay clean.
The Brown County unit fighting heroin formed last year and includes police, counselors and community leaders.