Almost daily the media has a story on a drug bust, seizure, or some type of drug crime activity with additional reports on methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl, or other opiate prescription medications.
If you look at the history of drug abuse what may have originally been a “war on drugs” has completely transformed into what I would call a major impact on society and a public health crisis.
Law enforcement officers are typically good at spotting many who have various addictions. Almost daily we see people at their worst and many of these addictions are a root cause for people committing multiple crimes and destroy their family and personal lives. We also see lots of low level dealers who are simply trying to make money to support their personal habit and still pay the bills.
We occasionally see the larger local dealer who only distributes significant quantities of drugs to a select few people they trust doing business with. These people usually do not use or very seldom use the drugs they sell and are commonly known by law enforcement in multiple jurisdictions. Most agencies will share drug information with law enforcement agencies regarding frequent or major drug movements.
Area law enforcement will rarely see the major large volume drug dealers here as most are commonly centered and feel safe in areas such as Kansas City, St. Joseph, Columbia, and St. Louis. Many of these people are involved in gang activity and even Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations. We are well aware of people that make multiple trips each week to move drugs for distribution and sale. The hard part is having dedicated hours for these time consuming investigations, promptly coordinating with other agencies, and having all the resources needed to be successful with the enforcement attempts. Remember the local law enforcement officers still have all the daily calls for service, complaints, court, and other statutory obligations.
Just a few years ago everyone knew methamphetamine labs were very common in Missouri. Simple changes with laws such as having to register to obtain pseudoephedrine products (certain cold medications) and harsher penalties on meth manufacturing have significantly dwindled the meth labs in Missouri. Now we are hearing about heroin flooding the bigger cities and now being here in Chillicothe and Livingston County. I believe we will see a drop in the prescription pain killer abuse and that will simply be replaced by the use of heroin. The laws are slowing changing making it more difficult for people to find a “Doctor Feel-good” to write many prescriptions so the cheap price of heroin will fill that void. Side note is the people who are receiving low cost or free healthcare and abusing certain prescription medications through personal abuse or selling their pills will continue with that as long as it is profitable.
Currently fentanyl is making a big jump in drug abuse and the dangers are extremely high for anyone in contact with this powerful drug or the fentanyl users. Direct exposure or cross-contamination of fentanyl creates a very high risk to EMS, healthcare workers, and law enforcement. Work place injury across the United States has been reported from fentanyl as it only takes a very small amount and the drug is easily absorbed through human tissue.
Drug offenders involved in fentanyl will do anything with the drug from straight use to lacing it with other drugs. The media has recently given reports of people being arrested with enough fentanyl to kill everyone in New York City; that is how little it takes to impair someone.
Fentanyl and the dangers of various drugs and combinations has prompted changes in policy for many agencies, including the LCSO. Policies and the handling of drug evidence and field testing are now stricter in order to protect the officers. This process also gives law enforcement the opportunity to partner with mental health professionals so the drug user and low end dealers may promptly get into treatment and counseling. This allows for law enforcement to obtain the lab report on the suspected drugs and then apply for an arrest warrant which may significantly speed up the court process and potentially lower incarceration costs of low level drug violators.
Just a little food for thought for the many people who believe the U.S. should ban firearms. Think about how many years and billions of dollars has been spent on investigating and incarcerating illegal drug crime violators just in the United States. How has that worked out? Banning firearms will only create another highly profitable and illegal trade which will be even more frequently smuggled into the U.S. in large quantities and send billions of dollars back out of our country. Remember the A.T.F. Fast and Furious Operation? Read that and learn about the current illegal firearms smuggling operations with Mexico. Again only the bad guy will be armed. Too often those who want such a ban are only thinking on the standpoint as a law abiding citizen and not how a criminal does or will operate.
In closing, I intend on visiting with Chillicothe Police Chief Jon Maples about approaching both the city and county commission to consider funding for an additional officer from each agency for joint assignment on aggressive area drug investigations. There is no drug task force which covers this part of Missouri and there is no money available to establish such a task force. Knowing this I remain confident we can do this together and make a more positive impact for all, provided we are able to secure necessary funding and staffing.
We thank you for your continued support as we are here and dedicated to our county and community. Be safe.
Sheriff Steve Cox