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Wright County News

Posted on: March 11, 2020

Methamphetamine Remains a Critical Issue in Wright County

Last month, the Wright County Sheriff’s Office coordinated with local police departments in a multi-jurisdictional investigation of several suspects believed to be trafficking methamphetamine. It was a reminder that, while meth was a scourge that swept the country 15 years ago, it isn’t gone – not by a long shot.

If anything, meth is more prevalent than it was when it first appeared in the early-2000s. After the proliferation of methamphetamine took off because it could be manufactured by using ingredients that could be legally purchased in most hardware or drug stores, measures were taken to limit the purchase of items like cold medicine in an effort to make it more difficult for meth manufacturers to get the ingredients they needed.

However, as U.S. enforcement tried to stem the tide of methamphetamine abuse, the supply of the drug has flooded into the drug market by meth labs in Mexico, where it is produced in “super labs” that can create massive quantities of the product.

Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer said that drugs coming in from Mexico has always been a problem, but the issue has grown in recent years because of the enormous quantity of the drug available and the proximity of Wright County in between two metro areas where the drug stream runs to.

“The Mexican cartels are very active in Minnesota,” Deringer said. “We’ve got two major hubs – St. Cloud and the Twin Cities metro – on either side of us. There is no shortage of meth. It is absolutely everywhere. There has never been a shortage of meth and there is probably more meth on our streets now than ever before.”

The problem with trying to slow the tide of methamphetamine coming into Minnesota is the cost. An ounce of meth can be purchased for between $350 and $550, according to law enforcement. Three years ago, that same ounce of meth would cost between $1,500 and $2,000. The price that someone would pay for a gram of meth just a couple of years earlier now allows them to purchase an eighth of an ounce – 3½ times more – of the drug for the same price. 

The conventional wisdom among law enforcement is that, in the front line battle in the drug war, meth is king, has been for some time and probably always will be.

The February bust was centered in Annandale, but included several arrests in multiple jurisdictions and involved the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, the office’s Special Investigative Unit (SIU) and city police forces from Annandale, Buffalo and Howard Lake. The SIU officers work undercover, so they aren’t identified by the dealers and users they’re looking to shut down. It’s an uphill battle for the small SIU team, but it is gratifying when they make a bust and take drugs off the streets, as well as those who sell the drug.

“You’re happy when you do the job and you take people that are affecting communities off the streets,” said one SIU officer. “But, then it’s back to the drawing board and the next investigation. For every six people you knock off, 12 more come to the light. For every dealer you knock off, two more come into play. It’s everywhere. That’s what makes it a beast right now. They’re not going to go anywhere. You can do what we do 24 hours a day, but you’re still going to have it on the streets.”

Annandale Police Chief Jeff Herr said small towns aren’t immune from the scourge of methamphetamine and the havoc it can wreak on a person’s health and family life.

Once thought to be in retreat, meth has made an unfortunate comeback and looks to be even more difficult to stop now as it was in the early-2000s when it first arrived.

“We have to crush methamphetamine because it’s back,” Herr said. “It’s a problem we thought we had under control – or at least slowing it down – a few years ago, but it has come back with a vengeance.”

Deringer said the only way to stop the influx of methamphetamine in Wright County is to increase the number of officers looking to take on the drug traffickers to take the fight to them. As he sees it, it’s the only way that law enforcement can put up the kind of battle needed to stop the proliferation of the drug.

“One of my initiatives is going to be to increase the staff,” Deringer said. “Right now, we’ve got two investigators and a sergeant in our SIU unit. That’s window dressing. They’re running their tails off and could run their tails off 24/7 and never be caught up. If we’re going to do more than window dressing in Wright County, we need to put some resources to it. It’s no secret that drug crimes drive almost all other crimes in our area – theft, fraud, burglary and assault. You name it. It’s all driven by the drug culture and we need to fight it hard.”

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