Meth Users and Crime Linked in South Dakota
Authorities in central South Dakota say that meth users are becoming a serious problem. Moreover, there is a significant amount of criminal activity associated with the manufacturing, distribution, and selling of meth.
In 2015, Hughes County, South Dakota, is the least populous county in the U.S. which houses a capital (Pierre). At just over 17,000 people, the county handled 939 felony cases in 2015 – a 20% increase from the previous year.
In addition, the jail processed 112 prisoners charged with controlled substance possession. That was up roughly 300% from 2014 and 2013.
While it is difficult to gauge the exact scope of the problem, there’s little doubt that many of the criminal involved meth users and meth production. It is, however, hard to determine how many burglaries and assaults are related to the drug. Unless a suspect is arrested on the scene and tests positive, there is just no way of determining a relationship. And often, the involvement of meth just isn’t obvious.
Wendy Kloeppner, Hughes County attorney says that that drug possession cases have increased, as well as aggravated assault.
Meth Use On the Street
When someone is charged with possessing a controlled substance, data regarding the exact drug is not collected. The only way to determine whether meth users are increasing is to interview local law enforcement. And indeed, officers on the street do believe that meth use and crimes surrounding it is on the rise. For example, Dave Panzer, Chief of Police for Pierre stated that there is a definite increase, although he denies it is approaching epidemic proportions.
The increase may be due to recidivism. That is, offenders who are released to treatment problems may get caught under the influence, either via random drops or just being caught on the street.
The Need for More Treatment Options
There appears to be lack of qualified residential treatment centers in the area, according to some. Drug use is not often committed in vacuum – that is, addicts often suffer from other mental health issues such as depression.
Therefore, if the underlying problems are not addressed, users will keep using. Demand creates supply. So therefore, more drug production and trafficking will result. The drug system has its own self-perpetuating economic cycle, and at the bottom there are usually socioeconomically disadvantaged persons wanting to self-medicate or make a living by whatever means necessary.