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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

'Crystal Ball' arrests just a start for area drug problem

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Special Report

As Operation Crystal Ball concluded last week, many people may be left questioning the state of drug use in Storm Lake.

The recent sweep of 21 arrests does not mean that Storm Lake no longer has a drug problem. According to Storm Lake Police Captain Todd Erskine, the arrest may have slowed some of the drugs coming in temporarily, but not all, and not for good.

"We may have stopped part of it, but there are people in line who will take the next place or just be more competition for the person's buyers," Police Chief Mark Prosser said.

According to Erskine, the top three illegal drugs in Storm Lake area familiar ones: methamphetamine, marijuana and cocaine.

"Crystal meth is so addicting it's pretty much you try it once and you are addicted," Erskine said.

Erskine sees that drugs are being brought in from Mexico, but Storm Lake is not always the final stopping point.

In a recent case, a car was stopped on I-29 with six pounds of crystal meth. The car was headed to Storm Lake, and eventually on to Minnesota to complete the pipeline.

"A lot of these cases now are multi-jurisdictional - it's not just confined to one place," Erskine added about the case.

According Erskine, one challenge facing enforcement is that the drugs aren't confined to one generation today.

"In the bust from last week we arrested a 45 year-old," Erskine said. "It's not just 18-25 or the 25-30. It's the older generation, the middle generation and the younger generations."

Prosser agrees with Erskine.

"Drugs are going to younger generation because there is a market for it," Prosser said. "These kids have grown up in a society where drug use is more prevalent. I have heard stories of when officers have gone into houses and the drugs are out in open were the children are or drugs were hidden in their toys. What type of message does that send to them?"

The debate today is often whether prison is more or less effective than mandatory treatment as a response to drug cases.

Prosser hopes that the people are able to get help before it comes to being arrested.

"It's just not simply we want them in jail or we want them in rehab," Prosser said. "With the arrest the people are in the system and then people hopefully get the help they need. It is possibly they may dry out while in jail and then use the system to help them get on a good path."

There are new weapons being introduced in the war on drugs but Storm Lake likes to stick with "old-fashioned police work." Erskine says cases often built over time, working with contact people and following up on information they have received from citizens of Storm Lake.

"If the whole department of detectives did nothing but look into drug cases, they would not be short of work," Prosser said of the current situation. "But the city cannot afford to do that with the hours and pay we have. But Captain Erskine and his people are continuously spending time when they can, following up on leads, spending hours away from their families to work on all theses cases."

The amount of time varies by case. According to Prosser, an officer may have to spend time calling other law enforcement agencies to find information or to verify information.

"It's not like a movie or TV show were the bust is made in 60 to 120 minutes," Prosser said. "It's takes time and it requires a lot of patience and not everyone in the community understands that. We follow up on everything, but it takes time."

Prosser says that education will also be a weapon on the drug war.

"We need to lessen the demand, like what happened with tobacco. We educated younger people on the dangers of it and now we have people who are less likely to smoke," Prosser said. "We need to do this on drugs starting with kindergarten on through and have them know about the dangers, and then they will be willing to avoid the dangers more."

Laws also play in role in the drug situation in Iowa. The pseudoephedrine law pasted recently have helped curb the meth labs somewhat. The law limits the amount of medication containing pseudoephedrine to be purchased and require the purchaser to present ID for the medication. Pseudoephedrine is part of the meth recipe.

"The (pseudoephedrine) law really slow down the amount a meth we see made in the area," Erskine said.

Drug use has always been around and it's not leaving anytime soon, Prosser admits.

"If you would have asked me my fist day on the force I would have thought we would save the world, but now I'm more realistic. In the future I see that drug use will be lessened and not be such a factor in the schools and younger generation," Prosser said.

Erskine hopes Storm Lakers will call in any information they may have on drug use or selling.

"The citizens of Storm Lake are our eyes and ears and they can help," Erskine said. "We do follow up on every lead."

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