Friday, March 23, 2012

Lions get the scoop on local drug enforcement

BF Police Sergeant Scott Jones
Abuse of prescription drugs has grown rapidly in recent months, and so-called "synthetic drugs" have also taken hold across America -- and this region.

Sergeant Scott Jones of the Belle Fourche Police Department gave a sobering presentation to the Belle Fourche Lions Club yesterday (3/22/12), providing lots of information and spurring considerable interest among members.  There were lots of questions.

Although Jones has been with the Belle Fourche Police Department for only about a year-and-a-half, he has some 14 years of experience in law enforcement and is one of a handful of drug identification officers in this area.

While the drug problem in Belle Fourche isn't nearly as pervasive as many parts of the country, Jones provided statistics from 2011 that should be cause for concern:  there were 18 cases that resulted in 91 citations and 34 instances of drug paraphernalia, two attempts to deliver, and 23 possessions.

During the first three months of 2012, there have been 10 cases involving 24 citations, 10 paraphernalia, six possessions, two possessions of a controlled substance, six ingestions, and one possession of an intoxicating substance.

Lions Club Program Chairman Leo Orme (at left) poses with
speaker Scott Jones of the Belle Fourche Police Department
and Lions Club President Brian Kline on Thursday (3/22/12).
Jones noted that the biggest problem continues to be marijuana and that the department is rarely seeing any instances of LCD or PCP, which were popular in an earlier era.  There also is not much evidence of cocaine in the area.  However, it is now prescription drugs that seem to have become the biggest problem.

Jones called prescription drugs containing opiates "legal heroin" and expressed the view that it would be good if physicians prescribed them only for acute pain and then only for short periods of time.  He also compared the abuse of Ritalin to cocaine.

While he applauded the work done by the South Dakota legislature in dealing with drugs in the state, Jones said that the legislative response will have to be quicker in order to deal effectively with the surge in synthetic drugs.  In the past five years or so, synthetics have become a serious concern.

One challenge is that the synthetic drugs like "Bath Salts" and "Night Lights" don't show up in drug and urine tests.  Sergeant Jones underscored the importance of not violating the constitutional rights of citizens, and he cited three ways employed in catching drug users and pushers:  
  • Observation - when paraphernalia is seen in vehicles or in homes during routine calls
  • Sources of information - a variety of individuals in the community, often even concerned family members, will often come forward 
  • Confidential sources - finding individuals within the drug culture who will provide useful information; this has proven to be among the best ways to catch drug pushers
Jones said that the drug culture may be a smaller problem here than in major cities, but that it is among the "tightest" that he's seen anywhere.  Even individuals caught for serious offenses often refuse to cooperate in turning evidence against others.  That is, however, loosening up a bit, according to Jones.

While it's unlikely that our community will ever be totally free of drugs, the goal of the Belle Fourche Police Department is to eliminate drugs in the community and make it as drug-free as possible.

Lions members were reminded that the Belle Fourche Lions Pancake Breakfast is coming up this weekend at the Moose Lodge.  The doors will open Sunday morning (3/25/12) at 8:00 o'clock, and we'll continue serving until 1:00 p.m.

While many tickets have already been sold, it's important to remind folks that tickets will also be sold at the door.  Only $5 per person for all the pancakes you can eat.  Of course, we'll have sausage links, orange juice and coffee, too!  Kids under five years of age are free.   Tell your friends and come join us for a great breakfast!

(NOTE:  Thanks to Lions Bill Kunerth and Del Neumeister for contributing to this story!)