One year ago, the Hilliard Division of Police established a special investigative unit to become more proactive in dealing with recurring problems.

One year ago, the Hilliard Division of Police established a special investigative unit to become more proactive in dealing with recurring problems.

"As we noticed how much busier our police are every day with traffic-related calls, taking reports and investigating ... we started talking about the future of policing," Deputy Chief Bobby Fisher said about a conversation with Chief Doug Francis that ultimately led to the founding of the unit.

"We saw that we did not have the staff in place to address some of the same problems we were seeing over and over again."

Fisher, who in January 2012 was named the police division's first deputy chief, cited thefts from cars and drug trafficking as two prime examples.

He said he and Francis concluded that redirecting resources -- notably the DARE program once taught in Hilliard schools -- would be a more productive way to combat those problems, and the SIU was created in January 2013.

Sgt. Dave Cunningham, a detective, is supervisor of the department, which includes a K9 unit and one other detective.

"We see the SIU as an opportunity to be more proactive and significantly improve the quality of life for our residents," Fisher said.

Rather than responding to calls after a crime has occurred or general patrolling, the three-member SIU attacks a specific problem, Cunningham said.

"We see this as giving us the ability to focus our efforts and reduce crime through targeted enforcement," Fisher said.

The SIU, Fisher said, is designed to respond to specific problems as they are identified and focus concentrated resources.

One example is drug trafficking, Fisher said.

"It is a problem in Hilliard, but not just Hilliard -- it's everywhere else in central Ohio," Fisher said.

Heroin is among the most popular drugs, and its use is increasing as drug abusers find it more difficult to obtain such prescription drugs as oxycodone, Fisher said.

Fisher said heroin also is relatively cheaper.

Cunningham said the SIU uses a combination of patrol intelligence and tips from residents to identify targets.

In one instance last year, a tip led to the arrest of a Hilliard man for drug trafficking, a robbery in Reynoldsburg and a slew of other charges not related to what Hilliard was investigating, Cunningham said.

Hilliard officers arrested Brian A. Groves, 47, of 3426 Leap Road, in July 2013 after police had the house under surveillance based on eyewitness reports of large amounts of come-and-go traffic.

Police obtained a 22-count indictment including multiple counts of possession of drugs and trafficking in drugs, Cunningham said.

Property recovered at the Leap Road residence was connected to a crime in Reynoldsburg, and additional charges, including receiving stolen property, robbery, aggravated robbery and unlawful possession of a firearm, were levied against Groves.

Groves' criminal cases are pending in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

"One investigation led us to another," which is not unusual for SIU cases, Cunningham said.

There also are "hot spots," Fisher said, where statistics show an uptick for crime.

Among them, Fisher said, is the Motel 6 on Parkway Lane, just west of Interstate 270.

The hotel is in the process of being rebranded as a Knights Inn, according to Hilliard Economic Development Director David Meeks.

Police also identify problem areas as they evolve and change, such as patterns of day-time burglaries or thefts from vehicles and open garages in specific neighborhoods.

Fisher said the efforts of the SIU officers are making a difference. To prove his point, he cited a meeting with a suspect during a recent drug-trafficking investigation.

"(The suspected dealer) said he didn't want to do a deal in Hilliard and asked to meet us in another location," Fisher said.

He said that encounter is an indication that Hilliard has a growing reputation for thorough police work.

The SIU also assists other agencies in various investigations and while it keeps track of its caseload and number of charges filed, those figures are secondary, Fisher said.

"(The SIU is) about the giving our residents the best quality of life," Fisher said.