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FBI: Spike in Pine Ridge Reservation homicides tied to meth

RAPID CITY (AP) -- An increased prevalence of meth at South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation led to an unusual number of homicides in 2016, according to the FBI.

Methamphetamine problem (Republic photo illustration)
Methamphetamine problem (Republic photo illustration)

RAPID CITY (AP) - An increased prevalence of meth at South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation led to an unusual number of homicides in 2016, according to the FBI.

The reservation had 14 homicides in 2016 - a number that's much higher than the yearly average in Pine Ridge, said FBI Assistant Special in Charge Robert Perry. The Rapid City Journal reports that Perry said a bureau analysis of homicides at the reservation over the past decade found that the yearly average is five.

"We wanted to understand, 'Is there something we're missing?' Is there a trend here that we haven't identified that we could affect?' The answer really is we didn't find anything other than the drug use," said Perry, who oversees FBI offices in North Dakota and South Dakota. The bureau investigates homicides at Native American reservations along with tribal police and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The spike in homicides began with nine in 2015, the year the FBI said it began noticing the prevalence of meth at the reservation.

"You had a new drug, basically, come in, and with that there were growing pains, just like a new business - turfs, who are the connections, who gets the drugs from whom," Perry said.

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Pine Ridge had three homicides in 2017. The eight other Native American reservations in South Dakota had five homicides that year.

Pine Ridge's interim police chief, Mark Mesteth, credited the drop in homicides to officers having an increased presence at the reservation. The Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety also created a drug team of three officers and four K-9s.

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