Despite making arrests at a slightly lower rate than a year ago, larger quantities of methamphetamine are being stopped by law enforcement in South Dakota.

It’s that rationale that is supporting Gov. Kristi Noem’s effort to put another $3.7 million toward fighting the issue in the state in 2020.

Earlier this year, Noem initiated an effort to have more Highway Patrol and Department of Criminal Investigation officers focused on conducting drug-related stings. That comes as the average amount of meth seized per arrest is nearly double what it was in 2018, saying that the state is arresting larger-scale dealers, rather than “addict-quantity” users.

Shortly after Noem’s stop in Mitchell last week, her office provided approximate figures on the number of arrests, based on data from the state’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, and reported from the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation:

  • In 2018, there were 3,684 arrests in 59 South Dakota counties, where approximately 46,000 grams of methamphetamine was seized (resulting in about 12 grams of meth per arrest). That equated to about 10 arrests per day.

  • In the first 10 months of this year, there have been 2,905 arrests in 51 counties, resulting in about 67,000 grams of meth being seized, equating about 23 grams seized per arrest. That equated to about 9.5 arrests per day.

“We hired four additional Highway Patrol officers to specifically focus on meth, and two DCI agents to do the investigative side of some of those sting operations. We did have more meth captured in the state, and more arrests,” Noem said. “We did see more results in getting that, and larger busts, larger quantities at a time, that I think was really key in making sure we have those investigators going after those who are funneling it into the state in big quantities.”

Of the $3.7 million she intends to put toward fighting the meth problem in South Dakota, $3 million of that is set to go toward treatment programs, while the remaining $700,000 will go toward law enforcement efforts.

The governor’s budget for 2020 included $730,000 for school-based meth prevention programming through the state Department of Social Services, which Noem’s office said will reach about 40 schools through nine different agencies. The goal is to have programs focus on mitigating risk and increasing protective factors, such as characteristics that can support health development and understanding substance use, practicing resistance skills, and learning personal self-management and social skills.

“While our primary emphasis is on decreasing methamphetamine use among our South Dakota youth, implementing universal prevention programs in schools can produce a reduction of other substance use and risky behaviors as well,” said DSS Prevention Program Manager Jana Sprenger in an announcement about how the funding will be allocated.

Noem said that South Dakota has seen a 200 percent increase in people seeking meth-specific treatment since 2014.

“Overwhelmingly, our problem is still meth,” she said. “It is destroying our families … “Everyone has a role. We’re treating this differently.”

In a conversation with the Davison County Commission this week, Sheriff Steve Brink said he believes it will be a continued issues, and that he’s noticed deputies making stops involving larger quantities of meth. Commission Chairwoman Brenda Bode said local and state agencies need to be in position to assist meth users who are seeking treatment.

“I don’t see the end of this anytime soon,” Brink said. “It is a terrible drug.”