Officer A.J. Vissing, along with a covert narcotics detective, detain and search individuals suspected of drug use after complaints at a Clarksville motel. Staff photo by Tyler Stewart
Officer A.J. Vissing, along with a covert narcotics detective, detain and search individuals suspected of drug use after complaints at a Clarksville motel. Staff photo by Tyler Stewart
CLARK COUNTY — A report of women being tased at a motel in Clarksville seemed as though it would be the last call of the day on a News and Tribune ride-along with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office on April 7.

While responding to the call, however, officer A.J. Vissing received an unrelated complaint from the motel’s manager about behavior he observed in a room on the third floor.

He told Vissing that several people were in the room, and he suspected they were using drugs.

After contacting the department’s covert narcotics detective, Vissing drove his truck to a neighboring lot to observe the room from a distance, where he noticed several individuals exiting and entering the room.

Once the narcotics detective arrived on the scene, he and Vissing went to the room to make contact with the suspects.

The interaction resulted in the discovery of spoons, straws, syringes and a bag of drugs.

Though this incident and the three arrests it produced seemingly came from nowhere, Vissing said his job patrolling Clark County for narcotics usually requires much more legwork.

Vissing, a 10-year veteran of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, is credited by department leadership as being one of the most effective drug-enforcement officers on today’s force.

During his time as an officer, Vissing said he has noticed a sudden spike in opioid use.

“I would say 70 to 80 percent of the individuals I come in contact with have some kind of a heroin or opioid problem or a drug problem of some sort,” Vissing said. “I’ve never seen it like this around here. It’s out of control in my opinion.”

According to Vissing, the problem began with pills. After a series of crackdowns by government officials and doctors limited the street supply, many users switched to heroin.

“Heroin made a huge comeback,” Vissing said. “When I first got on, you hardly ever heard of an overdose. Now it’s something that you’re not shocked if you hear it three or four times a day. We’re seeing it a lot more than we used to.”

Because of the current situation, Vissing said he became more motivated to get drugs off the streets by locating dealers.

On most days, this requires Vissing to dedicate much of his time to spotting odd behavior that may be associated with people using or dealing drugs.

“I’ll come out on shift in the morning and talk to the shift guys, talk to the covert narcotics guys, and then from there drive around and look for things that aren’t ordinary,” Vissing said. “If you’re sitting and watching something and see a lot of movement, it’s going to indicate that something’s not right. Your instincts tell you that if it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not.”

Vissing said hot spots in the area include motels and hotels, such as those that line sections of 10th Street in Jeffersonville.

“A lot of users that don’t have a house get this money to get dope,” Vissing said. “They don’t have any place to go, so they’ll go to the hotels.”

If a location is identified as harboring potential drug activity, Vissing said he sits and watches in an attempt to gain intelligence on the people there.

From that point, Vissing said he may pull over a car that leaves the area if probable cause is presented. During the stop, he tries to get information from the person about what they were doing at the location.

“Basically, the goal in that is, if they’re lying to you, you find the inconsistencies in their story,” Vissing said. “Then, you can start getting more in-depth with your questioning. The main outcome and the goal is to remove the narcotics off the street as best as we can without violating anyone’s rights or doing anything that would put somebody else in jeopardy.”

The people Vissing encounters during stops are often users, but he said his main objective is to go higher on the chain.

“The daily users are something that’s a bad thing, as well,” Vissing said. “We don’t want people using, but my main concern is who’s giving it to them.”

By talking to users, law enforcement officers can gain valuable information about the source of the drugs.

Using that information allows departments to organize controlled buys and acquire search warrants that target dealers more effectively.

“Just gaining that information from them, it ultimately can take it further to a supplier or dealer,” Vissing said. “There’s a lot of manpower in doing that kind of stuff once you get that information, relaying it in order to start a bigger case and work up the chain as best you can. That’s what it’s all about, getting the narcotics off the street.”

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