Meth Impact: Cottonwood rise in meth investigations reflect countywide trend

By 2011, meth-related felonies in Yavapai County dropped down to 1,895 from 2,739 in 2005. But in 2012, crimes started to gradually increase again and in 2018, numbers spiked back up to 2,502. Adobe stock photo

By 2011, meth-related felonies in Yavapai County dropped down to 1,895 from 2,739 in 2005. But in 2012, crimes started to gradually increase again and in 2018, numbers spiked back up to 2,502. Adobe stock photo

Cottonwood is seeing a rise in methamphetamine-related investigations since 2016, according to a 2018 Cottonwood Police Department annual report.

Cottonwood Police Chief Steve Gesell and Cmdr. Jody Makuch presented the report to city council during a regular meeting Tuesday.

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“Meth has a far greater public safety impact than opioids given that it is a powerful stimulant that fuels violent behavior,” Gesell said. “The focus nationwide has been on the opioid crisis due to the deaths primarily connected to fentanyl … opioids and fentanyl dominate the discussion and media cycle at the moment." -- Cottonwood Police Chief Steve Gesell

According to the report, there were 24 meth-related investigations in 2018, this is a rise from 17 in 2017 and just 7 in 2016.

The trend is countywide. According to figures provided by Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking, there were 45 pounds of meth seized in 2017 in Yavapai County, up from 40 in 2016. In 2018, total meth seizures dropped down to just under seven pounds but according to a March 5 Daily Courier article, 31.75 pounds of meth have already been seized since the beginning of the year.

“Our concern is we have another meth epidemic on the way,” said Chief Gesell.

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Graphic by Chris Myers

In 2006 when meth-related crimes in Arizona were starting to peak, the legislature passed a bill to single out meth dealers. Anyone convicted of making, selling or transporting meth faces a minimum of five years under this law. Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk was a significant proponent of this law.

By 2011, meth-related felonies in Yavapai County dropped down to 1,895 from 2,739 in 2005. But in 2012, crimes started to gradually increase again and in 2018, numbers spiked back up to 2,502.

“So even though we have this statute that mandates that meth dealers go to prison and we’re still sending them to prison, we’re seeing more meth and we’re definitely seeing an increase in crime,” Polk said in a March 12 Daily Courier article.

Makuch also noted that this was a nationwide problem during his presentation Tuesday.

“Nationwide, methamphetamine is at an all-time high as reported by the DEA,” Makuch said during his presentation Tuesday. “It’s become cheaper and more potent as it crosses the Mexican border into the U.S. and they’re mass producing it in super labs and distributing it through existing heroin and cocaine networks.”

A super lab, according to Chief Gesell, is a term used to “denote clandestine labs that exist beyond our borders.” Most meth on U.S. streets is manufactured in Mexico, he said.

Historically, clandestine labs in the United States were typically small operations in garages due to the challenge in getting the precursor, pseudoephedrine, needed to make it,” he wrote in an email. “It is easy for criminals to get their hands on bulk quantities of pseudo as its not regulated as it is in the U.S. (among other variables such as corruption and lax enforcement).  This allows these labs to produce meth on a grand scale.”

According to the report, it was a “roller coaster year for heroin investigations.”

“It was very prevalent, and other times it appeared non-existent,” the report states.

Fentanyl, a drug responsible for the death of at least three people in Yavapai County became more prevalent in 2018 than any other year, according to the report.

But according to Gesell, meth is more dangerous when put in the context of public safety.

“Meth has a far greater public safety impact than opioids given that it is a powerful stimulant that fuels violent behavior,” Gesell said. “The focus nationwide has been on the opioid crisis due to the deaths primarily connected to fentanyl … opioids and fentanyl dominate the discussion and media cycle at the moment.”

To read the full report, visit www. cottonwoodaz.gov/558/Police-Department-Annual-Report

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