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Fighting Meth In The Northeast

March 17, 2014, 10:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Fighting Meth In The Northeast

Authorities in the northeast part of South Dakota are concerned with recent methamphetamine trends.

Officers in Brown County seeing an increase in the drug over the past year say that trend needs to reverse.

"Absolutely," Aberdeen detective Tanner Jondahl said. "Typically we see cycles where the arrests kind of go up and down, the quantity of drugs kind of go up and down. And right now we're certainly seeing an upswing in the amount of drugs and drug dealing in the area."

According to the Brown County States Attorney’s Office, law enforcement seized 15 grams of meth in the county in 2012. That number jumped to 43 grams in 2013. Other counties in the northeast including Roberts County experienced an increase as well.

Police say that increase doesn't necessarily mean they're doing a better job of catching drug offenders than they were in previous years.

"With us catching more, typically there's just that much more out there. And there's more on the street, more dealing, more distribution going on that officers are running across, investigators are actually able to catch up with it," Jondahl said.

In fact, a state agent devoted to the fight on drugs who had been stationed in Aberdeen relocated about a year ago. So law enforcement seized more meth despite having fewer feet on the ground.

That scares officers who fear more accessible meth will lead to more young people using it.

"And typically we run into, if someone uses meth at some point in their life, they're at a pretty high risk to reoffend or to re-abuse later in life," Jondahl said.

Law enforcement and prosecutors want help fighting the problem.

And they'll be getting some help. State lawmakers approved money to hire another DCI agent that will serve the northeast and focus on combating drug activity.

Brown County Chief Deputy States Attorney Chris White traveled to Pierre to lobby for funding to support that position.

"We're in an interesting spot because we don't have any help from the north because it's North Dakota. We don't have any help from the east because it gets into Minnesota," White said.

That is the reason White is thankful for help the area will be getting from the state. Through a compromise, lawmakers approved less money than the Attorney General originally asked for, but the DCI agent to serve six counties in the northeast will work full time.

White is hopeful for results.

"The meth trend right now is actually very scary," White said. "I was looking at my cases the other day. There're 75 pending felony cases and exactly 30 percent of those are meth related. So it's scary to see those numbers."

Aberdeen officers are thankful for the help coming, too.

"The seriousness of the addiction, it's such a difficult cycle to get out of. When someone becomes addicted to meth, it's extremely difficult," Jondahl said.

"If we don't try to address the issue now, it's just going to progressively get worse. And if it gets worse and worse, it's so much more difficult to try and bring back within reigns."

A big drug bust in a year can skew numbers. But White says there wasn't one last year so the increasing amount of meth seized is a result of more people found with the drug.

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