Increased drug-related offenses taxing law enforcement
Two categories of crimes are going in opposite directions in Dakota County, according to statistics recently released by County Attorney Jim Backstrom.
The number of adult drug-related cases in 2017 increased 100 percent to 902 compared to the nine-year average from 2008-16 of 449, while juvenile crime has dropped 40 percent from its 10-year high in 2008.
There’s no likely correlation between the two as the proliferation of drugs is feeding the first, while better post-offense strategies are cited as reducing the latter.
Opioids have captured headlines and legislative attention in the past year as epidemic proportions of prescription drug addictions and deaths have occurred in some areas of the country, while governments have poured millions of dollars into prevention and treatment efforts.
Many governments, including Dakota County, filed lawsuits in 2016 against major pharmaceutical companies in an effort to recoup costs to fight the opioid epidemic that they say drug companies have caused through negligence and unfair trade practices.
“(This) has filled our jail and strained public health resources,” Backstrom said.
Felony prescription drug crimes rank the fourth highest in Dakota County behind methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.
While it’s not tops on the list, Backstrom says prescription drug addiction often leads to people getting addicted to meth or heroin.
He says some users turn to stealing medications from others or using street drugs with tragic consequences.
There were at least 24 overdose deaths due to opioid or heroin use in Dakota County in 2017, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Meth-related cases continue to be the most frequent drug crimes in Dakota County, accounting for more than half (560) of drug cases in 2017.
Backstrom said much of the meth seized by law enforcement is produced in Mexico and