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Heroin seizures in Douglas County at record high in 2016

Heroin (right) and other paraphernalia used to prepare and take the drug are seen in this file photo, taken at the Superior police department. (Jed Carlson (jcarlson@superiortelegram.com) / Superior Telegram)

Danielle Kaeding

Wisconsin Public Radio

Law enforcement agencies in Superior and Douglas County seized the most heroin they've ever seen last year.

Douglas County Sgt. Jim Madden said officers seized more than 460 grams of heroin in 2016. That's a more-than-450 percent increase from the little more than 1 gram of heroin in 2011.

"Which is sad, because it illustrates the problem that we have," Madden said. "But, it also gives us hope that we're doing something about it because somebody's got to go out and get that heroin off the streets."

Madden said a team of five narcotics officers seized drugs last year with a street value of $547,946.

"You ask any one of my investigators, we'd all say the same thing: that we think we're just getting the tip of the iceberg," he said.

The increase in seizures stems from enforcement and purity levels of heroin, which is causing more people to become addicted to the drug right away, Madden said. The drug also is readily available, typically coming to the Twin Ports from the Twin Cities and Chicago areas.

A report released earlier this year by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows the rate of heroin overdose deaths grew 880 percent between 2006 and 2015.

Madden added that Douglas County also had the most heroin submissions per capita to the state crime lab in 2016 and the third highest submissions per capita for methamphetamine.

"There's not one other county that appears in the top 10 in ... these categories together. We're in the top three, and we lead one of them," he said. "We'd probably lead the other if we weren't fighting the heroin epidemic so hard."

Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard in the Twin Ports at 91.3 FM or online at www.wpr.org/news.

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