Policing on the Front Lines of the Opioid Crisis

Law enforcement officers play three important roles on the front lines of the opioid epidemic: They are responsible for emergency response and preserving public safety as well as law enforcement. This report from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) discusses the challenge of reconciling the conflicts that can arise among these roles and presents recommendations for alleviating these difficulties and improving law enforcement response to the opioid crisis.

The COPS Office is the component of the U.S. Department of Justice responsible for advancing the practice of community policing by the nation’s state, local, territorial, and tribal law enforcement agencies through information and grant resources.

The COPS Office publishes materials for law enforcement and community stakeholders to use in collaborativ​​ely addressing crime and disorder challenges. 

These free publications provide best practice approaches and give access to collective knowledge from the field. You can find their recent and featured publications, and search the Resource Center or their Community Policing Topics pages for specific issues ​by visiting ​​https://cops.usdoj.gov/recentreleases or by calling the COPS Office Response Center at 800-421-6770.

Photo by camilo jimenez | Unsplash.com

National DEA Drug Take Back Day is Approaching

​​According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers, 4.9 million people misused prescription stimulants, and 5.9 million people misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in 2019. The survey also showed that a majority of misused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.

​​The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) National Take Back Day, set to take place this year from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 24, ​​addresses a crucial public safety and public health issue by giving Americans the opportunity to clean out their medicine cabinets and turn in — safely and anonymously — unused prescription drugs.

In 2020 alone, Americans returned 985,392 lbs (492.7 tons) of unused prescription drugs at 4,487 Collection Sites across the country.​ ​The DEA, along with its law enforcement partners, has now collected nearly 13.7 million pounds of expired, unused, and unwanted prescription medications since the inception of the National Prescription Drug Take Back Initiative in 2010.
​Find a drop-off site near you by visiting https://takebackday.dea.gov/#collection-locator.
Law enforcement agencies interested in hosting a collection site should visit https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/poc.htm
To learn more about legal and illegal drugs and the effect they can have on your mind and body visit https://www.getsmartaboutdrugs.gov/drugs
If no prescription drug take-back program is available in your area, you can find simple steps to throw the drugs in the household trash by visiting https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2018-10/Proper%20Disposal%20Flier%20%28October%202018%29.pdf
To learn more about drug scheduling and penalties visit https://www.campusdrugprevention.gov/content/drug-scheduling-and-penalties
To locate a treatment facility that addresses substance use/addiction and mental health issues visit https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/

Opioid Manufacturer Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Fraud and Kickback Conspiracies

Opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma LP (Purdue) pleaded guilty today in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, to conspiracies to defraud the United States and violate the anti-kickback statute.

Purdue pleaded guilty to an information charging it with three felony offenses: one count of dual-object conspiracy to defraud the United States and to violate the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

“The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids,”  said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen.  “Today’s guilty pleas to three felony charges send a strong message to the pharmaceutical industry that illegal behavior will have serious consequences.  Further, today’s convictions underscore the department’s commitment to its multi-pronged strategy for defeating the opioid crisis.”

“Purdue admitted that it marketed and sold its dangerous opioid products to healthcare providers, even though it had reason to believe those providers were diverting them to abusers,”  said Rachael A. Honig, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.  “The company lied to the Drug Enforcement Administration about steps it had taken to prevent such diversion, fraudulently increasing the amount of its products it was permitted to sell. Purdue also paid kickbacks to providers to encourage them to prescribe even more of its products.”

“As today’s plea to felony charges shows, Purdue put opioid profits ahead of people and corrupted the sacred doctor-patient relationship,” said Christina Nolan, U.S Attorney for the District of Vermont.  “We hope the company’s guilty plea sends a message that the Justice Department will not allow big pharma and big tech to engage in illegal profit-generating schemes that interfere with sound medicine.  We hope, also, that this guilty plea will bring some sense of justice to those who have suffered from opioid addictions involving oxycodone and some vindication for families and loved ones of those who did not survive such addiction.”

“This case makes clear that no company, including Purdue Pharma, whose actions harm the health and safety of the American public, is beyond the reach of law enforcement,”  said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.  “The opioid epidemic continues to spread across the United States impacting countless Americans and harming communities. Together with our law enforcement partners, the FBI is committed to investigating and holding criminals accountable for the roles they play in fueling this crisis.”

As part of today’s guilty plea, Purdue admitted that from May 2007 through at least March 2017, it conspired to defraud the United States by impeding the lawful function of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  Purdue represented to the DEA that it maintained an effective anti-diversion program when, in fact, Purdue continued to market its opioid products to more than 100 health care providers whom the company had good reason to believe were diverting opioids.  Purdue also reported misleading information to the DEA to boost Purdue’s manufacturing quotas.  The misleading information comprised prescription data that included prescriptions written by doctors that Purdue had good reason to believe were engaged in diversion.  The conspiracy also involved aiding and abetting violations of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by facilitating the dispensing of its opioid products, including OxyContin, without a legitimate medical purpose, and thus without lawful prescriptions.

Purdue also admitted it conspired to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute. Between June 2009 and March 2017, Purdue made payments to two doctors through Purdue’s doctor speaker program to induce those doctors to write more prescriptions of Purdue’s opioid products.  Also, from April 2016 through December 2016, Purdue made payments to Practice Fusion Inc., an electronic health records company, in exchange for referring, recommending, and arranging for the ordering of Purdue’s extended release opioid products – OxyContin, Butrans, and Hysingla.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Purdue agreed to the imposition of the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer, including a criminal fine of $3.544 billion and an additional $2 billion in criminal forfeiture. For the $2 billion forfeiture, the company will pay $225 million within three business days following the entry of a judgment of conviction in accordance with the Plea Agreement.  The department is willing to credit the value conferred by the company to state and local governments under the department’s anti-piling on and coordination policy if certain conditions are met.

Purdue has also agreed to a civil settlement that provides the United States with an allowed, unsubordinated, general unsecured bankruptcy claim for recovery of $2.8 billion to resolve its civil liability under the False Claims Act.  Separately, the Sackler family has agreed to pay $225 million in damages to resolve its civil False Claims Act liability.

The criminal and civil resolutions, which were announced on Oct. 21, 2020, do not include the criminal release of any individuals, including members of the Sackler family, nor are any of the company’s executives or employees receiving civil releases.

On Nov. 17, 2020, the bankruptcy court in the Southern District of New York approved the financial terms of the global resolution with the company.  The resolution includes the condition that the company cease to operate in its current form and instead emerge from bankruptcy as a public benefit company (PBC) or entity with a similar mission designed for the benefit of the American public.  The proceeds of the PBC will be directed toward state and local opioid abatement programs.  Based on the value that would be conferred to state and local governments through the PBC, the department is willing to credit up to $1.775 billion against the agreed $2 billion forfeiture amount.  The department looks forward to working with the creditor groups in the bankruptcy in charting the path forward for this PBC to best accomplish public health goals.

The global resolution does not resolve claims that states may have against Purdue or members of the Sackler family, nor does it impede the debtors’ or other third parties’ ability to recover any fraudulent transfers.

Except to the extent of Purdue’s admissions as part of its criminal resolution, the claims resolved by the civil settlements are allegations only.  There has been no determination of liability in the civil matters.

Photo by Michael Longmire | Unsplash.com

DEA and partners collect a record amount of unwanted medications during National Drug Take Back Day

DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day brought in nearly a million pounds of unused, expired, and unwanted medications across the country, the largest amount ever collected in the program’s ten years. Americans once again showed their dedication to remove prescription pills from their homes to prevent addiction before it starts.

DEA, along with its law enforcement partners, has now collected nearly 13.7 million pounds of expired, unused, and unwanted prescription medications since the inception of the National Prescription Drug Take Back Initiative in 2010. On Oct. 24, the public turned in 985,392 pounds – almost 493 tons – of medication to DEA and 4,153 of its community partners at 4,587 collection sites nationwide, including 33 Bureau of Indian Affairs sites.

“This year’s event, with a record-setting 493-ton collection, is a sure sign that DEA’s Take Back Day events continue to provide a vital public service that keeps loved ones safe—an opportunity to rid homes of potentially dangerous unused, expired, and unwanted medications,” said DEA Acting Administrator Timothy Shea. “Every day is Take Back Day and we encourage the public to continue to address this urgent safety and public health issue by using the thousands of existing drop-off locations throughout the year.”

In addition to DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, safe and secure drug disposal continues to be available at any of the 11,000 DEA authorized collectors throughout the year. For more information, visit: https://apps2.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubdispsearch/spring/main?execution=e1s1.

Given the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, DEA wants to ensure that the public is aware of other ways they can dispose of unwanted prescription drugs without having to leave their homes. Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have tips on how to safely dispose of drugs at home.

DEA also encourages the public to reach out to their local law enforcement to find out if they have any permanent drug disposal locations throughout their local community.

Complete results for DEA’s 2020 October Take Back Day are available at www.deatakeback.com.

DEA Take Back Day is October 24

DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. This is an opportunity to clean out medicine cabinets and dispose of unwanted, unused and expired medications, preventing drug addiction before it starts.

Collection sites will adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines and regulations in order to maintain the safety of all participants and local law enforcement.

For more information on DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, and to find a collection site near you, visit www.deatakeback.com.

Alternative Disposal Methods

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, collection sites may be limited. Can’t find a collection site near you? Learn more about other ways to dispose of and keep medications safe by clicking on the following link:
Other Ways to Dispose of Medication

DEA and Discovery Education Launch Expansion of Operation Prevention

Unsplash Photo by Scott Webb.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and Discovery Education have expanded Operation Prevention, a joint effort to curb drug use among students by educating them about the dangers of abuse. In response to growing demand, new modules launched last night build on the original student curriculum, which is geared toward elementary and middle schools students. These new lessons educate young people about the effects of a wider range of drugs and pharmaceuticals on the human body.

Operation Prevention will host a webinar for educators on October 14 to review the existing curriculum, and showcase the new multi-drug curriculum with a video topic series and activities for grades 3-8, and tips for implementing them within the existing Operation Prevention resources. Educators can register here.

“The first line in prevention is always education,” said Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea. “By reaching out to youths, presenting them with information to expand their base of knowledge about drugs and drug abuse, we can stem the future tide of misuse, abuse, overdose, and death. If we reach just one child and prevent even one death through this program, we will consider it a success.”

DEA and Discovery Education launched Operation Prevention in 2016 as a three year program for middle and high school students with lessons centered on the dangers of opioid prescription drug abuse. The DEA-funded program was soon expanded to add elementary and Spanish-speaking students. A second expansion added a workplace module to allow businesses to access this important information. The program continues to evolve with a module for Native American/Alaskan Natives in the planning stages.

DEA Warns of Pandemic-Related, Deadly Mix of Fentanyl and Meth

Pills containing a mix of heroin and fentanyl. Photo courtesy of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is warning of a rise in a dangerous mix of fentanyl and methamphetamine linked to the coronavirus pandemic’s effects on the drug trade.​​

William “Bill” Callahan, head of the DEA’s St. Louis office, said the pandemic was affecting the shipment of chemicals to where drugs are made and the smugglers’ ability to get drugs across the border. Car traffic across the border has dropped, he said, and some restrictions have been imposed on cross-border trips.

And like any business during the pandemic, drug dealers have had to face customers with less money or who are concerned about social distancing. Most are not as mindful of health recommendations as legitimate businesses, but Callahan said investigators have seen some dealers wearing masks, and some even offering contactless delivery.

The coronavirus shift has led to changes in the prices and purity of illegal drugs, Callahan said in an interview Thursday, particularly meth.

Although meth labs were once a problem in Missouri, most of the meth in Missouri, Kansas and southern Illinois now comes from the Jalisco New Generation Cartel in Mexico, as they’ve learned to produce a more potent and cheaper product than people can make in home labs.

As meth became scarce during the pandemic, Callahan said people began trying to make it on their own again. When that led to price and purity decreases, dealers started mixing fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that’s often added to heroin to increase potency. Fentanyl’s availability did not change much during the pandemic, Callahan said.

“They are trying to make a stronger product on their kitchen table, which is not the place to make the things we ingest,” he said. No one, he said, has the sophistication at home to handle a drug as powerful as fentanyl.

The DEA learned about the recent trend by organizing regular calls and virtual meetings with drug treatment and prevention providers.

Area medical examiners and coroners said they can’t necessarily determine which drug in a person’s system caused death. Dr. Mary Case, St. Louis County Medical Examiner, said opiate users often add a stimulant, like cocaine or meth, to increase the duration of a high.

In an email, Madison County Coroner Stephen P. Nonn said that meth was back “in a big way.” He said the county is on track to have roughly the same overdose deaths as last year, which saw 94. There have been 60 so far in 2020. One was a result of cocaine and meth, eight were a result of meth only, 10 resulted from meth and fentanyl and 12 were a result of only fentanyl, he said. The rest were mostly a combination of fentanyl and other prescription drugs, with a few alcohol overdoses.

Callahan said the pandemic was also affecting the ability of area residents to get drug treatment and education.

“People didn’t know where to get help,” he said, so the DEA created the website withyoustl.dea.gov, again with the help of local treatment providers. The site lists treatment and recovery resources, clinics, and parent groups, as well as information about how to obtain free naloxone, which can counteract opiate overdoses.

By Robert Patrick | St. Louis Today stltoday.com

Improving the Accuracy of Laboratory Testing of Cannabis

Due to different state laws regarding the medical and recreational use of cannabis, it is important for law enforcement departments to have access to reliable laboratory testing facilitates to accurately identify the components of cannabis. Consumers who use these products legally should feel confident that the cannabis package labeling is truly representative of the contents.

Two Main Components of Cannabis

The two main components of cannabis are Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). There are two plant subspecies of cannabis, Cannabis indica and Cannabis Sativa. C. Sativa contains higher concentrations of the psychoactive ingredient THC and is cultivated more often.

CBD oil does not alter sensory perception or produce any type of euphoria, so it is sold without prescription. The oil is derived from the cannabis plant, but is highly touted for its ability to ease anxiety and assist with sleep disorders.

Hemp and cannabis are derived from the same plant species; however, hemp plants contain less than .3 percent of THC. Cannabis plants that are grown to harvest marijuana typically contain 5 to 20 percent THC. In ancient times, hemp fibers were used to make cloth and ropes.  Now most CBD products are made from hemp plants.

Legality of Cannabis

Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which has determined that marijuana has a high potential for abuse and is of no medical use.

At the federal level cannabis is illegal. Medical use of marijuana is legal in 33 states; recreational use is currently legal in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Legislation in many states such as Alabama and South Carolina has stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of this July, there were only a few states where marijuana use was illegal:

South Carolina
South Dakota

The legality of cannabis has drastically changed over the past 10 years. The 2018 Farm Bill made a distinction between hemp (3 percent  THC) and cannabis products with higher concentrations of THC. Under the bill federal restrictions were lifted on growing hemp plants, providing growers with the opportunity to profit from the once DEA-restricted controlled substance.

The Many Faces of Cannabis

Whether for medical use or for pleasure, marijuana is taken in many different forms. This makes it difficult for the Department of Justice and state law enforcement agencies to enforce the laws. Some product examples include:

Cannabis Oil (CBD)
Cannabis edibles and beverages
Cannabis beauty products (lotions and balms)
Cannabis tinctures
Smoking and vaping

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has some control over what products containing CBD are approved. Before a product can be marketed for therapeutic use or treatment of disease, it must have prior FDA approval. Many states are also banning edible CBD products because CBD is not an “FDA-approved food additive.”

Cannabis Quality Assurance Program (CannaQAP)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) understands the pressure forensic laboratories are under to distinguish marijuana from hemp in suspected illegal drug arrests and seizures. In the past, forensic drug analysts tested marijuana evidence for the presence of THC, but they did not quantify the sample.

Most forensic laboratories do not have staff with the proper training to conduct these quantitative tests. Recently, NIST unveiled the CannaQAP program designed to provide training to these facilities to accurately measure the concentrations of cannabis compounds. The training is designed to be similar to forensic analysts’ proficiency testing in which they are given unknown samples. The unknown samples will include THC, CCD, and 15 additional cannabinoid compounds. The analysts test these samples and their results are reported back to NIST.

The labs will be given the data as to what was accurately measured and what was inaccurately measured. The end result is to develop consistent measurement techniques and protocols across the board that will make all forensic laboratories more efficient.

By Dr. Dena Weiss, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice at American Military University | In Public Safety inpublicsafety.com

About the Author:

Dr. Dena Weiss is an associate professor at American Military University, teaching courses in criminal justice and forensic science. She recently retired after working 24 years as a crime scene investigator and fingerprint examiner for a central Florida police department. Prior to that position, she was a serologist for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Her court experience includes testifying in more than 200 federal and circuit court cases in over 15 Florida counties. Dr. Weiss is also an active member of the Florida Emergency Mortuary Operations Response System (FEMORS). Her educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Sociology, a master’s degree in Forensic Science from Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as a Ph.D. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Criminal Justice.

Wuhan was Fentanyl Capital Before Becoming Coronavirus Capital

​Wuhan, China, is the world capital of production of chemicals needed to make fentanyl.(Getty Images) ​


For drug traffickers interested in getting in on the fentanyl business, all roads once led to Wuhan.

The sprawling industrial city built along the Yangtze River in east-central China is known for its production of chemicals, including the ingredients needed to cook fentanyl and other powerful synthetic opioids.

Vendors there shipped huge quantities around the world. The biggest customers were Mexican drug cartels, which have embraced fentanyl in recent years because it is cheaper and easier to produce than heroin.

But the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan late last year before spreading across the planet has disrupted the fentanyl supply chain, causing a ripple effect that has cut into the profits of Mexican traffickers and driven up street drug prices across the United States.

Few industries — illicit or not — have been unscathed by the pandemic that has upended the global economy and killed more than 190,000 people worldwide.

The narcotics trade, which relies on the constant movement of goods and people, has been stymied by lockdowns, travel bans and other efforts to contain the virus, according to government officials, academic researchers and drug traffickers.

Mexican production of fentanyl and methamphetamine appears especially hard hit.

Fentanyl pills disguised as prescription pain killers.(Associated Press)

Both drugs are made with precursor chemicals that are typically sent on planes or cargo ships from China, where despite U.S. pressure to ban them, they continue to be sold legally.

That supply chain was shut down in January when authorities in Wuhan enacted a lockdown that forced residents to stay inside for more than two months.

In February, after a major manufacturer of the chemicals closed, vendors began posting apologies on the online sites where chemicals are typically sold, said Louise Shelley, a professor at George Mason University who tracks global fentanyl production.

“They were saying: ‘We’re not producing or selling or shipping,’” she said.

Logan Pauley, a researcher at C4ADS, a Washington-based think tank focused on transnational security, also noticed a decrease in advertisements for fentanyl precursors. He said vendors switched to selling other products, including face masks and anti-malarial drugs that some doctors and politicians initially hoped would help treat the coronavirus.

The drop in exports has left some Mexican drug producers with less access to needed chemicals.

Simultaneously, cartels have encountered another colossal challenge: new restrictions on entry to the United States — the world’s biggest market for illegal drugs.

Normally, more than a million people cross the U.S.-Mexico border legally each day. But that number has fallen significantly since March, when President Trump closed the border to all nonessential traffic, reducing opportunities for cartels to smuggle drugs north.

Some cartels are hurting financially, said Falko Ernst, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group. He said he has interviewed gang members who complain that cartel bosses have not paid their salaries.

“They’re being told that business is bad, that finances aren’t flowing smoothly,” he said.

Other factors are also hurting organized crime. Experts say quarantines have slowed the movement of cocaine from South America to Mexico and harmed legal industries, such as the avocado trade, from which cartels extort money. Meanwhile, the downturn of global oil prices has been a blow to gangs that resell stolen gasoline.

That loss of income could be exacerbating violence in Mexico, which saw 2,585 homicides in March, more than in any month in nearly two years.

In the United States, reduced drug production and less trafficking across the border appear to have resulted in rising retail prices.

Kameron Korte, a spokeswoman for the San Diego field division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, said fentanyl pills in her region now sell for $7 each, up from $5 a few months ago.

The average cost of methamphetamine has risen from $1,000 per pound to $1,400 per pound, she said.

Similar price hikes have been seen in other parts of the country.

Drug users have grumbled about rising prices on online forums. On a message board on the website Reddit, one person complained that prices of fentanyl pills in Phoenix had nearly doubled. “Border shut = less trafficking,” it said.

Despite that, drug treatment experts say they are seeing a surge in drug use.

Jeffrey Holland, who runs a nonprofit rehabilitation facility in Albuquerque, said anxiety about the pandemic and the economic recession is a potent trigger. It doesn’t help that Narcotics Anonymous meetings and other recovery programs have been moved online, he said.

“This is cultural trauma on a global scale,” he said. “And when people have more anxiety, they turn to alcohol and drugs.”

The country’s opioid crisis began more than a decade ago with prescription painkillers and heroin, but in recent years it has been dominated by fentanyl.

In 2018, more than 31,000 people in the United States died after taking fentanyl or one of its close chemical relatives, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No other drug in modern history has killed more people in a year.

Holland said he’s seen no sign of a slowdown in New Mexico during the pandemic.

“Drug dealers are still driving around, and they’re still selling from their houses,” he said.

Jaime López-Aranda, a Mexican security analyst, said that drug traffickers are accustomed to disruptions in the supply chain and that they would bounce back from the pandemic the same way they rebound from cartel infighting or law enforcement crackdowns.

“It’s part of the business cycle,” he said. “This has never been a stable market. The rule is strife and conflict.”

In Mexico, there has been some evidence that cartels have been trying to adapt.

Miguel Angel Vega, a journalist and expert on the Sinaloa cartel, said multiple drug producers have told him of efforts — so far unsuccessful — to manufacture the precursor drugs needed to make fentanyl and methamphetamine in Mexico.

Wuhan ended its 76-day lockdown on April 8, and many of the city’s 11 million residents have returned to work. According to Shelley, some online websites have already resumed selling fentanyl ingredients.

Ben Westhoff, who traveled to Wuhan in 2018 while researching the opioid trade for his book “Fentanyl, Inc.,” said it’s likely that Mexican cartels are already designing more resilient supply chains.

The only reason they relied on Chinese manufacturers for precursor chemicals in the past was because it was easy, he said.

“The reason they buy these ingredients from China is the reason everybody buys things from China: because it’s cheap.”

By Kate Linthicum | Los Angeles Times

Meth Labs Down in Missouri, Meth Smuggling is Up

A recent Associated Press report said although there has been a consistent decline in meth production in Missouri, the smuggling of the drug from Mexico has increased leaving federal and local agencies struggling to contain the movement. (File)

A recent Associated Press report said although there has been a consistent decline in meth production in Missouri, the smuggling of the drug from Mexico has increased leaving federal and local agencies struggling to contain the movement.

Sheriff Chris Heitman with the Maries County Sheriff’s Office said his office personally has seen the decrease in mid-Missouri m​​eth labs but an increase in drug trafficking.

“Thank God meth labs have went down because when I first started in Maries county, we had 19 meth labs and for a small rural county that s a lot of meth labs when we first took over and that was back in 2009,” Heitman said. “We didn’t have any meth labs last year. We need more officers on the street to help intercept a lot of that drug trafficking that’s going on now.”

As sheriff of a rural county, Heitman said there are challenges that come with needing more manpower to tackle new issues.

“Rural counties you know, we don’t have the funding that these larger counties have,” Heitman said. “Every time we have another task to take on, that’s less time we get to focus on our victim crimes, which is our top priority.”

Heitman attributes The decrease in meth labs to productive changed made by law enforcement and elected officials.

“I contribute that a lot to lawmakers changing the Sudafed law and things of that nature that made it hard for cooks to get the products they need to manufacture,” Heitman said.

Though the decrease in locally produced meth is making it more difficult for criminals to get their hands on the deadly drug, the trafficking from South America, and mainly Mexico, has federal and local law enforcement working overtime.

“It is a lot harder for them now,” Heitman said. “There’s no question law enforcement is taking a great stance in reducing the amount of drug trafficking going on.”

According to the Associated Press, Thursday the DEA announced a methamphetamine crackdown called Operation Crystal Shield, which will focus on eight “transportation hubs” where high levels of Mexican meth are being seized. The St. Louis Division, which covers all of Missouri and Kansas as well as southern Illinois, is the northernmost of the eight targeted areas.
​By Gladys Bautista​ | KRCG​