Northwestern Wisconsin meth problem on the rise

By: Olga Michail Email
By: Olga Michail Email

BARON, Wis. (WEAU) -- Years ago, law enforcement thought they had shut down the meth trade in the area. But it looks like it's making a comeback.

Now several local communities are seeing rising numbers of meth-related cases. Wisconsin Public Radio cites the State Department of Justice reporting Polk and Barron counties among the top IN Wisconsin for meth cases.

The Barron County Sheriff's Department says 41 cases were sent to the state crime lab in 2012, with total of 68 meth related arrests.
But the sheriff says it's all of Northwestern Wisconsin that's seeing more and more meth cases.

It's not the trend of making meth, but dealing meth that's got Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald's attention.

“Most of our methamphetamine comes from the Minnesota, the Twin Cities Minneapolis and St. Paul area,” said Fitzgerald

He says there were almost twice as many meth-related cases last year than there were in 2011. This year Barron County has had 17 cases. More than half are under investigation right now. The sheriff says those cases lead to other community problems.

“Really it's the thefts, copper thefts, burglaries, barn thefts, different things like that to take place, because people need the money to get this drug, it's a very expensive drug,” added Fitzgerald.

The street value is thought to be about $200 per gram. So far, the drug hasn't made waves in the area's high schools.

“It's certainly a relief and I always try to make sure that our kids are safe and are making good decisions, I feel good about that,” said Barron School District Superintendent Monti Hallberg.

Hallberg says its pot and prescription drugs that tend to make their way into schools.

“It's (marijuana) a gateway drug to other drugs, other dangerous drugs, hard core drugs, more expensive drugs,” said Fitzgerald.

Barron County has two full time drug detectives, but still with numbers on the rise it's getting harder to keep up.

Drug users and drug dealers are finding more creative ways of transporting the drugs and hiding them as well, which makes it more difficult for the Sheriff's Department to find them. For example hiding it in what looks like a regular 7-Up can, but if you unscrew the top you’ll find a hollow area you can conceal any substance.

“We arrest a lot of people for it. We work really hard to make sure our cases go the districts attorney's office so if you want to sell drugs in Baron County realize that you're going to get caught,” added Fitzgerald.

Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer says the number of meth related cases in his county have also risen in the past two years.
Barron County Sheriff's Department says even with budget cuts they are trying to keep the two full time drug detectives on to try and get meth off the streets.

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