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Meth arrests being made at record rates in state

WAGNER -- Another year, another record-breaking number of methamphetamine arrests in South Dakota. "We just had a trooper recently seize 90 pounds of methamphetamine, which is one of the largest amounts seized in the state," said Jason Husby, cap...

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South Dakota Highway Patrol Captain Jason Husby speaks to the audience Tuesday during the Meth Awareness Initiative at Wagner Armory. (Sam Fosness /Republic)

WAGNER - Another year, another record-breaking number of methamphetamine arrests in South Dakota.

"We just had a trooper recently seize 90 pounds of methamphetamine, which is one of the largest amounts seized in the state," said Jason Husby, captain for the South Dakota Highway Patrol. That arrest, one of about 3,390 last year statewide, occurred near Rapid City.

Those facts and numbers were presented Tuesday during a three-day meth awareness initiative, hosted by Wagner and the Yankton Sioux Tribe. The gathering was held at the National Guard Armory in Wagner and continues today and Thursday.

From federal authorities to tribal officials, several levels of law enforcement presented at the event as guest speakers, taking questions and laying out methods to combat the deadly drug.

Husby presented statistics on the increase in meth use, along with discussing the distribution methods dealers and manufacturers use to distribute the drug in the state and in the Wagner area.

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"The Mexican drug trafficking organizations are responsible for moving the bulk of the amount of methamphetamine, and they are flooding the market with their business model," he said.

Husby said the primary meth manufacturers are working to produce more of the drug and do so cheaply. Tribal and federal law enforcement believe understanding the scope of how the drug is transported throughout the state and country is an imperative step in fighting this epidemic.

When Husby was a rookie officer in the early 1990s, one pound of methamphetamine was $25,000 to $30,000. According to Husby, one pound is now roughly $4,000 in today's market.

Husby said it will take a team approach in combating meth use and distribution in the state, which can be difficult as the Yankton Sioux Tribe is a sovereign reservation within Charles Mix County.

"We are relying on the community of Wagner and the Yankton Sioux Tribe to go at this fight together," Husby said to a gymnasium of about 150 people. "This will have to be a big team approach between the tribe and Wagner community, and you are all taking that first step by hosting this event."

The organizer of the meth awareness event, Yankton Sioux Tribe Police Chief Chris Saunsoci addressed the difficulties in combating meth in the Wagner area and urged tribal and community members to join forces in taking the deadly drug head on.

"Since (tribal law enforcement) only have jurisdiction in the reservation, we have some legal red-tape that needs to be worked on in order for us to work with each other on this fighting methamphetamine," Saunsoci said.

Saunsoci's main goal for the event is promoting interaction with all levels of law enforcement from the reservation and Wagner community members working together.

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"To bring our communities together for this event is a special thing to be a part of," Saunsoci said. "Since the Wagner area has multiple jurisdictions, we all have to work together."

With the large spectrum of law enforcement officials present at the event, Saunsoci said the jurisdictions have been continually improving on working with each other to combat meth.

"The fact that we were invited by the Yankton Sioux Tribe is such a huge step in fighting this drug not only in this community, but in the whole state," Husby said. "Just because Wagner and the Sioux tribe created and hosted this event does not mean this area has an exclusive problem with meth. It's a serious problem in the whole state."

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