Drugged driving, property crimes a concern as meth use increases sharply

courtesy: DEA
courtesy: DEA

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) — The FBI and Wisconsin Department of Justice are making a harsh prediction — that communities across the state will only start seeing more methamphetamine and the crimes associated with its abuse.

It comes from a joint study on the drug, just released, analyzing its use across the state.

In it, officials reference stories Action 2 News first told you about back in 2015, helping shed light on the problem.

Drug investigators show us the new concerns facing Northeast Wisconsin.

The stats clearly show a meth problem in Brown County.

Brown County meth grams seized (Source: Brown County Drug Task Force)
Brown County meth grams seized. Click for larger image. (Source: Brown County Drug Task Force)

“In two years, we went from 200 grams seized to over 2,000,” says Brown County Drug Task Force Lt. Kevin Kinnard. “And that’s only what we seize, not what’s still available. It’s up 20 times.”

After what Kinnard has seen since the problem first came to light, he doesn’t see it improving.

“It’s just a dramatic increase. I’ve never seen a drug increase that quickly,” he says.

The task force busted a huge meth trafficking operation nearly a year ago, arresting more than 80 dealers and temporarily slowing sales, but their customers remained.

Kinnard says new dealers have since stepped in to meet demand, keeping meth as a top concern statewide.

That increased attention has users and dealers going to great lengths to conceal it.

“They use private carriers, such as UPS, FedEx. They use the US Postal Service,” he says.

Or they hide it in children’s socks and baby blankets, as Brown County has seen.

The FBI-DOJ joint meth study points to a domino effect of problems, from money-hungry addicts committing identity theft and burglaries to endangering children.

“If a robbery occurs in the house, that’s drug-related for money or drugs, they’re not going to typically report that to police, so those kids are basically left without the protection of the police,” says Kinnard.

Meth use chart

The report shows, statewide, the majority of meth deals, 75 percent, occur in homes, but 27 percent are in public places. Sixteen percent happen at work.

But at one point or another, many of us are facing repercussions of drug use in an unsuspecting place — on our roads.

Wisconsin map of meth-related OWI incidents
Click for larger image (Source: WSIC)

A map from the study shows meth-related OWI cases across Wisconsin. The same state law covers both drunk and drugged driving offenses.

The report shows what it classifies as a “doubled, considerable or dramatic increase” in several counties in Brown, Manitowoc, Outagamie, Winnebago and Calumet Counties.

“It’s going to impair you… being wide awake, but still you’re impaired. It’s still affecting judgment, because it’s going to affect the speed your brain is moving at,” says Kinnard. “So instead of being depressed and moving slower, maybe they’re moving too fast or feel like they’re not moving fast enough.”

If there’s any silver lining to the meth trends, it’s that there are still few meth labs in Northeast Wisconsin, reducing that danger for unsuspecting neighbors.

Kinnard says most meth being used and sold in this area is in the form of crystal meth or “ice” and comes from Mexico. It’s usually trafficked through California, to the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and then ends up here.

Investigators don’t know how many people are seeking treatment, but encourage it to anyone they have contact with or arrest.

For more information on local treatment options, click here.

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