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SD meth arrests, seizures spike in 2016

The Jerauld County Sheriff's Office didn't make any meth arrests in 2016, but that doesn't mean the drug isn't in the area. "We're seeing the effects of meth, we just haven't made any arrests yet this year or last year," Jerauld County Sheriff Ja...

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

The Jerauld County Sheriff’s Office didn’t make any meth arrests in 2016, but that doesn’t mean the drug isn’t in the area.

“We’re seeing the effects of meth, we just haven’t made any arrests yet this year or last year,” Jerauld County Sheriff Jason Weber said Tuesday. “It comes down to whether we can prove it or not, but the aftereffects of meth are there. It’s all over.”

Jerauld County was one of 14 counties - including Bon Homme, Sanborn, Miner and Aurora counties in The Daily Republic’s coverage area - that did not report any meth seizures, arrests or lab incidents in 2016 according to the South Dakota Attorney General's office, while the remainder of the state nearly broke records. 

Meth arrests in South Dakota hit a 13-year high in 2016 and the 64 pounds of the drug seized by law enforcement was the second-highest total in the same time period. But the number of meth labs uncovered - nine - by law enforcement drastically decreased from the past five years, which all checked in at more than 20.

The last time the number of meth labs dropped below 10 was 2011, when state officers busted seven. Since then, 27 labs were busted in 2012, 39 in 2013, 38 in 2014 and 23 in 2015 before 2016’s dropoff.  

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More than half of the meth was seized in Minnehaha County, which houses South Dakota’s largest city, Sioux Falls, with 17,227.58 grams of the state’s total 28,847.732 grams, or 60.72 percent.

But Weber said it’s a problem in rural communities, too. The Jerauld County Sheriff’s Office employs a police dog, which specializes in detecting drugs and apprehending suspects. The department is currently operating without its K-9 companion, as its old dog was resolved of its duties and a new dog, a Belgian Malinois named Mack, is attending six-week certification training in Pierre. Training is expected to be done in approximately a month, Weber said.

Officers are constantly looking for evidence of meth in the county, which encompasses Wessington Springs, Lane and Alpena, but a shortage in hard evidence often makes executing searches and making arrests difficult, Weber said.

But in neighboring Lyman County, a different story unfolded in 2016.  

Last year, 13 meth-related arrests were made and 109.256 grams of meth were seized by law enforcement, checking in as the greatest total in The Daily Republic’s 17-county coverage area, just missing the state’s top-10, checking in at the 11th-highest total in South Dakota.

“We have seen a spike in meth arrests within the county,” said Lyman County Sheriff Manger said. “However, the majority of the cases that we are getting are people traveling through. We have also seen an increase with local arrests as well this last year.”

Manger said having three law enforcement agencies in the area - the sheriff’s office, the Lower Brule Police Department and the nearby Chamberlain Police Department - helps create a net of agencies meth abusers have a hard time passing through, helping to control the influx of drugs in the area.

“Meth is a scary drug that nobody wants in their communities,” Manger said. “I think I would be safe to say that meth is a big problem across the entire state right now.”

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