VALPARAISO | Candidates on the Democrat ballot in Tuesday's primary for Porter County Sheriff agree on one thing.
The drug problem is continuing to grow in Porter County to nearly epidemic proportions and there is a need for the next Porter County Sheriff to step up the assault on drug use. They also agree that drug abuse is the largest contributing factor to other crimes in the county.
The two candidates, Harold Lush, 69, of Chesterton and Dave Reynolds, 63, of Portage, however, have different approaches.
Lush believes that more community and parental involvement is needed to combat the problem. He's an advocate of expanding the DARE program for youngsters at all grade levels and believes youngsters should be drug tested.
"It will save kids' lives," said Lush, who was employed in plant security at Bethlehem Steel from 1973 to 1988. "I am a drug testing proponent. We test students in extra curricular activities and that's fine, but what about the other kids? The bottom line, some may think is radical, but I think parents should drug test their kids."
Lush said he also believes the Porter County Drug Task Force needs to "step it up" in the battle against drugs.
For Reynolds, who served eight years as Porter County Sheriff and was the chief of police in Portage prior to that, said the increase in drug use, in particular the increase in heroin coming into the county, is one reason he's seeking the office again.
"It is a serious problem that has reached families in every socioeconomic level," said Reynolds. "We specifically need to do something that can make a big difference."
Reynolds said most of the heroin coming into the county is from Chicago. Stopping it takes a combine effort of several agencies and municipalities joining together.
"We need to sit down and see how we can collectively identify who they are and go after them. We have to get back to the basics of identifying people who are selling drugs and get them off the streets," said Reynolds.
The status of the Porter County Jail is also an issue for Lush.
"The jail's been in disarray since it opened in 2002," he said, adding the opening of the third pod is long in coming.
"We have to get our act together. It's not all on the sheriff's shoulders, it's also the council and commissioners who have to act," said Lush.
Reynolds was sheriff when the new jail opened.
"There were a lot of innovative thing in the jail. We were transparent. We worked together to open the jail," he said, adding there are certain things a sheriff can't control such as the jail population and funding.
Reynolds also said part of his focus would be on adding law enforcement to Porter County roadways.
He said there is a lack of planning on adding law enforcement as the county grows and new housing developments are approved. He believes that should be looked at along with drainage and other issues that come along with growth.
"I want to increase manpower of the sheriff's department so we can patrol these areas effectively and responsibly," said Reynolds.
Lush said there are other issues that concern him and he will address if elected sheriff including driving under the influence, domestic violence and inattentive driving.