Taking Down Street Level Dealers


Police have been facing the drug issues on Sioux Falls’ streets for years now. In fact narcotics cases in Sioux Falls have been rising steadily over the last seven years. Shortly after Paul TenHaken took office as Sioux Falls Mayor, he had his first official meeting with Police Chief Matt Burns and came ready with a plan. 

“What the chief did is he went to our Drug Task Force and said, ‘What would help you guys do your job better? And how could you be better equipped and better resourced to tackle some of the narcotics issues. And what came out of that is what we’re calling the Narcotics Crimes Unit, or the NCU,” said TenHaken. 

Since 2015, meth arrests have increased 77 percent. In the first quarter of 2018 alone, the Drug Task Force seized more than 32 pounds of meth.

“Drugs in our community, the addiction to, the use of, and the trafficking and violence that comes from that continues to be the largest driver of crime,” said Burns. 

So how will the new NCU help? And how is it any different than the Drug Task Force? TenHaken says the current Drug Task Force is focused on ‘kingpins’, or dealers and suppliers. The NCU will target the street level dealers and users.

“‘I’ve seen several requests from citizens come through to say, ‘Hey, can you kind of survey this house or this house? I’m seeing a lot of traffic. I’m seeing a lot of activity at different times of the night. I think something is going on there’,” said TenHaken. 

The hope is that by having two officers dedicated to these types of cases, they will be able to work their way up the chain of command to more suppliers.

Chief Burns believes this move will help bring down the rising crime in the city.

“Our mandate, first and foremost mandate, is public safety and to hold those people breaking the law and peddling poison in our community and these drugs to account,” said Burns. 

TenHaken says because they are now fully staffed, they are not adding any officers. They are simply moving some patrol officers over to the NCU. This will start in August, after the officers finish training.

Now this is not just a Sioux Falls issue. According to a recent South Dakota crime report, 2017 had more than 8,000 drug arrests in the state. In the last five years, drugs arrests have increased nearly 50 percent. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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