Northwestern Wisconsin reports spike in meth-related crimeNorthwestern Wisconsin counties are reporting more methamphetamine-related crimes, even though the number of meth labs in the state has plummeted.
By: By Rich Kremer, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Northwestern Wisconsin counties are reporting more methamphetamine-related crimes, even though the number of meth labs in the state has plummeted.
Last year there were 440 meth cases submitted to the state crime lab. That's almost twice as many as from the year before, and most of the submissions were from northwestern counties.
Dave Spakowicz, a field director for the state Division of Criminal Investigation who specializes in methamphetamines, says Wisconsin meth used to be made in locally until a federal law was passed that more closely monitors the sale of a main ingredient. Spakowicz says that means it’s coming from outside the state.
“Unfortunately, what we’re seeing is what we believe are Mexican criminal groups that are starting to infuse more methamphetamine into the United States, and for the northwestern part of the state the source area…is the Twin Cities,” Spakowicz said.
Polk County had the most meth cases processed by the state lab with 57 last year, compared with 14 in 2011. Barron County was a close second with 41 submissions. But Barron County Sheriff’s Detective Jason Hagen says not all cases go to the crime lab. He says there were 68 arrests from his department that didn't show up in the report. Hagen says more meth means more property crime like burglaries and thefts of things like copper wire from farm irrigation systems.
“We see them going into old barns and ripping out the wiring, we see stainless steel from bulk tanks being stolen,” Hagen said. “If there’s a way to get it, they take it.”
Hagen says it's already been a busy year for meth-related crime and with shrinking law enforcement budgets it's getting tougher to keep up.