SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Methamphetamine made in Mexico is making its way to Sioux Falls.
And there is more of it today than five or 10 years ago, local officials said.
In 2017, Sioux Falls Police seized 11.6 pounds of methamphetamine.
Sioux Falls Police seized 133.35 pounds of meth in 2019, according to crime figures released Wednesday by the department.
Police seized 56.32 pounds of meth in 2018.
The 133.35 pounds of meth seized in 2019 is more than the combined seizure of marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Sioux Falls Police seized 114.26 pounds of marijuana, 4.45 pounds of cocaine and .08 pounds of heroin.
“…it’s never been more available and it’s never been cheaper,” Sioux Fall Police Chief Matt Burns said of meth.
Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said one of the challenges of a growing city is the battle against meth and drug use in general.
Sioux Falls has 11 members of the police force assigned to a narcotics unit. Those officers are nine detectives, one sergeant and one lieutenant, said police department public information officer Sam Clemens. The city is also a member of the Sioux Falls Area Drug Task Force.
Sioux Falls isn’t alone in battle meth and drug use, TenHaken said. Other cities in the U.S. and states are also battling meth and drug use. Some areas of the U.S. may have a different drug to focus on but the battle is similar, he said.
He pointed out the state’s recent campaign against methamphetamine launched in November.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) said on its website on July 10, 2019, that seizures of pounds in double digits were becoming common in the Midwest. The DEA said in July that it recently seized 250 pounds in Minnesota in a recent raid.
Sioux Falls officials also said Wednesday that violent crime was flat with increases in line with population growth. That was the case across the U.S. in 2018, according to the FBI’s most recent crime report released in September 2019.
Violent crime was decreased by 3.3% in 2018 from 2017, according to the FBI. Violent crime decreased by 4.9% from 2017 to 2018 in South Dakota. The rate per 100,000 residents decreased by 5.9%, according to the FBI.
Drug crime incidents rose to 3,043 in 2019.
The South Dakota Department of Corrections’ Fiscal Year 2018, 65% of the female inmates were serving time for a drug offense e and nearly one-third of all state prison inmates were serving sentences for drugs.
While fentanyl and other drugs are still a concern, methamphetamine is a big driver in those drug incidents, Burns said.
The methamphetamine problem of 2019 is different than the meth problem described by law enforcement in the 1990s or even of 15 years ago.
Sioux Falls Police responded to two meth manufacturing lab reports in 2019. None were reported in 2018 or 2017. Four were reported in 2016 and three were reported in 2015.
A 1995 report by the DEA discussed methamphetamine labs in the U.S. The report said, “Domestic methamphetamine production, trafficking, and abuse are concentrated primarily in the western and southwestern regions of the United States.”
That’s not true today.
Where does the meth come from?
Burns said federal law enforcement authorities, including the DEA, say methamphetamine is being manufactured in Mexico. “They have these mega labs of an industrial scale…”
That methamphetamine is transported by Mexican drug cartels to the U.S. for distribution here according to the DEA, Burns said.
Much of the methamphetamine in the Midwest comes from Mexico by way of Arizona, the DEA said in its July 2019 news update. Mega labs in Mexico are capable of making hundreds of pounds in a single cycle, according to the DEA.
The methamphetamine manufactured today is cheaper, plentiful and potent, according to the DEA. Methamphetamine deaths continue to rise, the DEA said.
Clandestine meth manufacturer labs in the U.S. were at their lowest level in 15 years in 2019, according to the DEA’s 2019 National Drug Threat Assessement.
Methamphetamine is smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico in a variety of ways, according to the DEA. Individuals can carry it on airline flights or its shipped through parcel services. Private vehicles are also commonly used and the product can be concealed in tires and other voids.
If the methamphetamine is dissolved into a liquid form, it can be more easily smuggled, the DEA said in its 2019 report. The liquid form of meth requires a lab to convert it to a solid form.
Methamphetamine has been found in cargo filters and electrical transformers.
The DEA said in its report that meth from Mexico may also include an Asian connection. As access to traditional ingredients such as ingredients in certain cold medicines becomes difficult to get, manufacturers use other chemicals that can be obtained in countries such as China. Most meth is made this way, according to the DEA’s 2019 assessment.
Burns said there is a dealer network in Sioux Falls but was not certain of the structure.
According to the United States Sentencing Commission, most drug traffickers in the U.S. in 2017 were men and most were U.S. citizens. The age and citizenship varies some according to the drug.
When the state launched the new campaign to combat methamphetamine use in November, it released data that said from January to August 2019, there have been 2,242 meth-related arrests in 50 counties in South Dakota.
The FBI’s 2018 crime report shows that 87.2% of drug abuse violation arrests in the Midwest in 2018 were for possession. Overall, 86.4% of all drug abuse violation arrests in the U.S. were for possession.
As of Feb. 1, 45.4% of all inmates in federal prison were in prison for drug crimes, according the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Most drug arrests in the U.S. in 2018 were for marijuana possession, according to the FBI.
Not only can meth and other drug users be arrested for drug crimes, they may also commit other crimes.
Burns said there is a direct correlation between drugs and crime. A drug user may commit a crime to buy drugs.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics said in 2004, 17% of state prisoners and 18% of federal inmates said they committed their current offense to obtain money for drugs .
Individuals arrested in Sioux Falls are housed in the Minnehaha County Jail.
Lt. Kurt Schaunaman of the Minnehaha Count Sheriff’s Office said the majority of jail inmates have a substance abuse problem. Substance abuse would also include alcohol, he said.
In 2018, an estimated 1.1 million people aged 12 or older had a methamphetamine use disorder, according to a 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The NSDUH has conducted a national survey each year and the data is used by various agencies and organizations in the U.S. The 2018 survey is the most recent available.
A methamphetamine disorder is described by NSDUH as when someone experience clinically significant impairment caused by recurrent use of methamphetamine.
In 2018, nearly 1 in 5 people aged 12 or older (19.4%) used an illicit drug in the past year, according to the NSDUH survey. Most of that was marijuana use.
In addition to the drug incidents, Sioux Falls had 904 driving while impaired arrests in 2019.
County jail handles those arrested on drug crimes
In 2019, the jail had an average daily population of 404 inmates, Schaunaman said.
The county has a policy for any inmate admitted to jail.
“When they get arrested and come to jail, it’s policy to have a nurse or medical staff see the inmate within two hours of booking time,” Schaunaman said. If that can’t happen, then jail staff evaluates the inmate’s vital signs and monitors the inmate to make sure it’s safe for the inmate to be jail.
A registered nurse is available 24 hours a day seven days a week and a medical provider is also on call, he said.
An inmate may start withdrawing from their substance use after about two days in jail, Schaunaman said. When jail staff sees signs of drug withdrawal, they must act appropriately, he said. That includes monitoring the inmate’s vital signs, he said.
Schaunaman said the county also conducts urinalysis tests or UAs for those who are out on bail. An increased number of people arrested on drug or drug related crimes means more UAs are conducted, he said.
The county has a 24 hour a day, seven days a week, alcohol and UA testing.
“We do roughly 1,000 (court ordered) UAs a month,” Schaunaman said.
The county did 150,000 PBTs, or alcohol breath tests, in 2019, he said.
The county has 350 individuals currently on PBT testing and 126 individuals on UA.
Most individuals on UA and PBT test two to three times a week, so the monthly and yearly totals include multiple tests for individuals.
Both the number of inmates with substance problems and UAs are increasing, based on his 14 years with the county, he said.
If the individual tests positive for drugs or alcohol, they will most likely return to jail, Schaunaman said.
TenHaken said an individual with a substance abuse problem who commits crime is costly to taxpayers.
He used an example of one individual who had multiple arrests in various crimes and a substance abuse problem. That individual can cost taxpayers $500,000 to $1 million, TenHaken said.
It’s important to get those types of individuals back on track and into the workforce and community so they don’t end as part of a crime statistic again, TenHaken said.
Programs such as the new Community Triage Center program and mentoring programs are important, TenHaken said. Mentoring youths before they have a substance abuse problem can prevent crime and have an overall positive impact on youth, he said.
The triage center is designed to help those with a mental health need or substance abuse problem as an alternative to a hospital or jail.