Meth Epidemic In SD?: Minnehaha County Sheriff Weighs In

"We also have something else knocking at our door, that's called heroin."

In 2015, South Dakota saw a 22 percent increase in drug arrests compared to the year before. The Attorney General attributed the increase to methamphetamine, saying that we’re dealing with an epidemic.

Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead agrees with South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley, that meth has been a spreading one for a number of years. Milstead says we also have something else knocking on our door: heroin.

In November of last year, the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office uncovered a quarter pound of meth in this Dell Rapids home. Deputies called it a huge drug bust, but you won’t hear Milstead boast about it.

Milstead said, “I’ve been in this business for 40 years and I saw methamphetamine come into our community and for me to just go back and say here is one that’s memorable, the unfortunate thing is they’re becoming back page news.”

Back page because he says they’ve become so frequent, with no one type of offender. In this case, a 45-year-old woman was arrested. He estimates that more than 80 percent of the large amounts of meth in South Dakota is coming from south of the border, from major drug cartels and trafficking organizations.

Milstead said, “It’s also a drug of choice for some people, who sometimes started by becoming addicted to opioids.”

Milstead says the use of meth and heroin are leading to dangerous, felony crimes in South Dakota, which are also on the rise.

“From my experience, in the drug enforcement business and as sheriff, I recognize the fact that a lot of these crimes, in particular robberies, burglaries, shootings, stabbings, aggravated assaults are related to drugs,” Milstead said.

Milstead says solving the problem doesn’t just mean putting more officers on the street. He says we need to do more on the prevention and treatment side. The public plays an important role as well. That’s what landed Cindy Woods in Dell Rapids behind bars.

“The citizens are our best tool in the fight against drugs,” said Milstead.

Milstead says despite the fact that our jails are full, we need to be tough on these types of crimes. He says we need to send the message to drug offenders in South Dakota that they could be in line for prison time.

In 2015, law enforcement made 6,818 drug arrests in South Dakota. That’s 1,241 more than in 2014.