ST. PAUL - Illegal drug seizures are skyrocketing across Minnesota, according to new data released Monday by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS).
In 2016, Violent Crime Enforcement Teams (VCETs) seized a record 488 pounds of methamphetamine off the streets, a 484 percent increase since meth seizures reached their lowest levels in 2009 (83 pounds).
"Only a few short years ago if a drug task force seized a pound of meth it was considered a substantial amount. Nowadays they might seize between five and thirty pounds of meth in one operation," Faribault Police Chief Andy Bohlen says. "
Prescription pill seizures, which includes highly addictive opioids, increased by 231 percent in 2016 over the previous year.
“The rate at which drugs are being seized around the state should concern every Minnesotan,” said Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman. “Law enforcement can’t win this battle alone. We need parents, educators and the peers of those who take drugs to say enough is enough. Together we can save lives.”
Drug enforcement officials say while the number of working meth labs discovered has dropped from 410 in 2003 to just 13 in 2016, meth continues to stream into Minnesota from Mexico, as does powerful supplies of heroin. Some of the heroin that arrives is laced with fentanyl, which is mostly from China.
"We are working with our federal partners such as the postal service in identifying those who are shipping these most dangerous drugs into our state," DPS Gang and Drug Coordinator Brian Marquart says.
Treatment of those addicted to illegal drugs is also up, with 11,555 people admitted for addiction to methamphetamine, second only to alcohol for numbers treated.
“What we are seeing in the data is alarming. Methamphetamine use is now second only to alcohol for treatment admissions in Minnesota," said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans. "The good news is: treatment works. By strengthening and improving our treatment system, more people will get the help they need when they need it.”
Governor Mark Dayton is proposing nearly $1 million in additional funding for the BCA to hire additional agents and scientists to combat this problem.
Dayton's budget also contains a provision that would revamp the way state officials treat addiction. Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper says treatment providers are moving towards a more holistic form where addiction is seen as more of a chronic issue than an acute one.