According to numbers from the South Dakota Attorney General's Office, arrests for murder and sex offenses were down in 2016 when compared to 2015, but drug arrests were up.
Local law enforcement has been noticing the trend for months, but now there is no denying the numbers.
"We, like everywhere else in the country, are experiencing that meth epidemic,” South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said. “And we have got to do everything we can with No Meth Ever, with some of our addiction and drug court opportunities, to get ahead of this."
All drug arrests were up 12.5 percent in 2016 from 2015. But it's not just drug arrests that have Jackley concerned.
"It's the crime that some of these folks that are addicted or on drugs are also committing on the property crime side of things that really drive those arrest numbers," Jackley said.
In fact, overall arrest numbers are also up for crimes including burglary, stolen property and auto theft. What isn't surprising in the numbers is where crimes are taking place.
"Certainly, when you look at the numbers, it's population-based," Jackley said. "So you look at Sioux Falls and Rapid City, the numbers are higher than other areas."
Rural areas have their problems, too.
"It's just a reality of we have significant methamphetamine flowing in and out of our reservations here in South Dakota," Jackley said.
Faced with a sixth consecutive year of rising arrest numbers, Jackley says that while drugs are fueling some of the increases, the numbers also reflect the simple fact that there are more officers on the streets to make those arrests.
"Over the year alone, we've added over 100 police officers across the state,” Jackley said. “That's going to, of course, contribute to some of the arrest increases, but that's a good thing."
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