Interstate 70 serves as major drug trafficking corridor though Hancock, Henry counties

INDIANAPOLIS - Interstate 70 through Hancock and Henry counties is a busy corridor for drug trafficking through the Midwest, police said.

The Pro-Active Criminal Enforcement (PACE) team, a first of its kind in Indiana, is a multi-jurisdictional drug-task force that has kept a close eye on I-70 since Deputy Nick Earnstes started it in 2009.

Since then, the PACE team has intercepted more than 100 pounds of cocaine, 75 pounds of heroin, 1,000 pounds of marijuana and $2 million in illegal drug money. The team has also recovered more than $300,000 in stolen property and rescued a 15-year-old girl who was being smuggled along the route.

With the seized drug money, the team was able to pay to have Mani, an English Springer Spaniel, specially trained at Ultimate Canine in Carmel.

"Basically we set up everyday scenarios, everyday venues to simulate real life scenarios," said K-9 trainer Julie Case.

Mani has been training for weeks and has learned to ignore distractions and find hidden drugs in all kinds of places, including during vehicle stops when drug traffickers are most vulnerable.

Mani's training and supplies cost about $8,000, but his service to the PACE team is solid investment.

"This will just give us the ability to have another K-9 available. Because sometimes on the highway, time is sensitive and crucial to the investigation," Earnstes said.

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