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Heightened Methamphetamine epidemic in rural Nebraska

February 25, 2017

In a 2012 national survey on drug use and health about 1.2 million people reported using methamphetamine in the past year.

“It doesn’t get any better it gets worse all the time.”

We’re talking about the meth problem in North Platte. Over the past 15 years methamphetamine has taken a hold on our community.

“Once people get hooked on this stuff, it’s a bad thing, they’ll steal from anybody that they care about and it just damages relationships, tears families apart. It’s just an awful drug,” said North Platte Police Investigator, John Deal.

Investigator Deal, said they’ve seen an increase in crimes related to meth such as domestic violence, robberies, and vandalism.

He said over the years they’ve cracked down,”Some of the things we’ll look for is your high traffic areas, your known users, information we are getting from informants from the community, we’ll compile all of that together and that’s what it takes to get a warrant sometimes.”

Investigator Deal said they’ve had luck catching those involved,”We show up early and they don’t have any fight in them, to begin with. Versus if you get them at 10 O’ Clock at night, they could be drunk they could be high, they could be completely different.”

Once the North Platte Police Department picks up a meth user, they’re booked into the Lincoln County Detention Center.

“I’d say 50 to 60 percent of the people in the jail are arrested because methamphetamine,” said Corporal Willie Purvis, who has been with the Lincoln County Detention Center for 12 years.

“You’re starting to see parents who came in when I first started, their kids are coming in now or we’re starting to get a lot of people off of the interstate, stopping at a rest stop, stopping at a gas station and they’re getting arrested from State Patrol,” Corporal Purvis said.

“That’s the corridor that people are using whether it’s from Colorado, or Wyoming or some of your other western states, they are eventually going to end up on I-80,” said Investigator Deal.

I-80 is a huge exchange for methamphetamine, but Troop D is making headway on the growing problem. 2015 was a big year, they arrested 256 people for possession, an increase of 20 percent from 2014.

Then in 2016 the State Patrol saw 234 possession arrests which is down 8.5 percent. What is even more impressive are the intent to deliver numbers. In 2015 the state patrol made 182 arrests, a 35 percent increase from 2014, and last year only 92 arrests a 49 percent decrease.

Even the local police department saw a decrease in possession to distribution cases. In 2016 the NPPD estimates they made 78 arrests for possession over 115 arrests in 2015, which is a 32 percent decrease. There was an estimated 62 percent decrease in distribution cases from 2016 to 2015, as our officers made about 29 distribution arrests compared to 11 the following year.

Now Investigator Deal said the decrease in distribution could be because officers aren’t seeing many meth labs around town.

“We do still have people making their own but they are in more small quantities. I think that a lot of the reasons for that is the change in the legislature and the laws really trying to prevent the sudafed going out in mass numbers.”

Now a new method to make the drug is hitting the streets, as reports show people are making meth in the back of cars.

“Meth has become such an easy drug to make, it went from huge meth labs to now they are shake and baking it, where they are actually making it in 20oz bottles,” said Corporal Purvis.

With the drug so easily accessible it’s no wonder our town of about 25,000 is seeing the problem grow.

“They try it, than the cycle begins where you’re on drugs. And you want to get off then your back on drugs and you want to get off. And the only time you’re clean and sober is when you come to jail.”

Law enforcement at the police station and detention center both said they’ve received letters from users thanking police for arresting them and detention officers for being so hard on them because they were finally able to get clean.