Minnehaha Co. Criminal Cases On The Rise
State's Attorney says drugs, specifally meth is to blame
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – In 2016, Minnehaha County started investigations on 14,500 new criminal cases.
To this day 10,000 of those are still open.
According to the State’s Attorney, many of these crimes have one thing in common.
“The vast majority of our adult criminal cases, the more serious ones are chemically propelled with either alcohol or drugs,” says Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Aaron McGowan.
McGowan says out of the 10 homicides that took place in the county in 2016, and the first murder of this year on New Year’s Day, about half of these cases are drug related.
“Because of the nature of that dangerous addiction we see that it really drives our crime.”
It also drives prosecutors’ workload.
With lawyers in the state’s attorney’s office handling 700 criminal cases a piece in 2016.
“We are handling a lot of days more than 250 cases in court on a single day,” says McGowan. “It’s very difficult for the staff to handle that volume.”
With a staff of 28 attorneys and the number of felony cases increasing 100 percent in the last 5 years, McGowan says they are barely keeping up.
“Every weekend that I come in, about half of the attorneys are in here,” says McGowan.
This is why he is relieved to know that Governor Dennis Daugaard is focusing on the issue surrounding meth.
During his State of the State speech, the Governor announced plans for a drug task force to drive meth out of South Dakota, treat addicts and prevent others from using.
McGowan says this will make the community safer, and make attorneys’ caseloads more manageable.
“I’m hopefully optimistic that we can end the epidemic of methamphetamine,” says McGowan.
The county has programs available to help addicts including a drug court which provides intensive supervision, addiction treatment and counseling to those who are using.
While this has proven to be successful in many cases, McGowan says they have limited capacity.