Comments Off on Methamphetamine on the increase in Rapid City, Pennington County

Discovering methamphetamine or traces of it on someone is becoming almost a daily event for local law enforcement.

Meth is the new pot, apparently,” Rapid City Police Chief Steve Allender said recently.


Allender’s officers often encounter suspects high on the highly addictive stimulant or find the white crystalline substance and its remains on paraphernalia used to consume it. Syringes or pipes tainted with meth residue are found in pockets, cars or dwellings.

“It’s becoming very prevalent,” Allender said.

Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom has also noticed the resurgence in meth use, which he said had declined as recently as 2009.

“We sort of got a handle on it, obviously its spiked back up,” he said.

At a recent meeting of the City/County Drug and Alcohol Board, members speculated that increased prescription-drug monitoring and the crackdown on bath salts and synthetic stimulants could be contributing to the increase in meth usage.

“A few years ago, bath salts were technically legal, except for ingesting side,” Thom said. “There’s some speculation that people migrated off of meth to bath salts and when bath salts became illegal they migrated back to meth use.”

The prescription-monitoring program has made it hard to doctor shop and abuse prescription drugs, Thom said.

Methamphetamine-related arrests have quadrupled in Pennington County in the past three years, according to statistics compiled for South Dakota as part of its participation in the National High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program.

The Pennington County Drug Task Force reported 368 methamphetamine possession arrests in 2013, compared with 194 in 2012 and 92 in 2011.

Overall, the Pennington county Drug Task Force reported 453 methamphetamine-related arrests (possession, trafficking or manufacturing) in 2013, 243 in 2012 and 137 in 2011.

Methamphetamine has become a common find for patrol officers, according to according to Sgt. Tony Harrison, a Rapid City police officer assigned to the drug task force.

“When I started 18 years ago and I first found meth, the other officers that were working on the shift came and looked at it,” Harrison said. “You just didn’t see that much of it. That’s not the case anymore. It’s much more common.”

Harrison believes meth use is related to crimes such as writing bad checks, car burglaries, identity theft and shoplifting of big-ticket items.

Over the past 10 years, inflation has hit the drug world. The price for a gram of methamphetamine has jumped by one-third to around $150, Harrison said.

“It’s an expensive habit, so folks have to find a way to pay for it,” he said.

Drug trafficking arrests have almost doubled from 48 in 2012 to 81 in 2013, but not a lot of methamphetamine is made locally, Harrison said. Only four methamphetamine labs were found in Pennington County last year, compared with 28 in the Sioux Falls area.

Gone are the isolated forest labs littered with bulky propane tanks and toxic chemical wastes common nearly two decades ago. Even though drug users have refined the manufacturing process and use pop-bottle-sized “shake and bake” or “one pot” labs, users prefer the more refined crystal meth delivered in bulk from other states, Harrison said.

Last year, two major meth arrests were made in Pennington County. In December, a shipment of 48.8 pounds of methamphetamine was snared, five times more that officers seized from January through December.

“That’s not necessarily South Dakota bound meth. That’s meth going across the state,” Harrison said. That shipment was headed for Minneapolis, he said.

But whether meth is moving through South Dakota or being consumed locally, its impact on society is clear to Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo.

“It is very rare, frankly, for a serious assault case or a sexual assault case to come through our office that isn’t in some way related to drugs or alcohol,” he said. “Methamphetamine is certainly the most prevalent…it certainly figures prominently in a lot of criminal offenses.”



Comments are closed.