Illegal Drugs in Lamar: Update

Drug Update (1)

Although there are illegal drugs in Lamar, statistics provided by the Lamar Police and the Lamar Fire and Emergency Departments show heroin and meth use ranks lower in their estimate than illegal usage of prescribed drugs. Both Chiefs discussed those figures from their viewpoints of law enforcement and emergency medical response situations during a Lamar City Council work session on Monday, April 4th.

Lamar City Council Work Session

Lamar City Council Work Session

While Lamar will never be totally drug free, LPD Chief Kyle Miller and LFD Chief Jeremy Burkhart noted a general correlation between the arrivals of new drugs in the community with an upswing in the number of overdoses responded to by local EMTs. The types of drugs being sold on the streets has also altered.  Miller said, “Cocaine was the major drug in 2008.  You hardly saw any heroin or syringes in town and the users and sellers were careful about who they let into their circle.”  Now, he told the council, the major drug being used is either over the counter or prescribed drugs or marijuana.  Chief Miller said from September 2015 to last month, there has been a 50% correlation to the number of arrests made compared to the number of drug tips police receive.  Five arrests in January with ten calls that month; four arrests in September with seven calls received and nine arrests in October and fifteen calls made.  “We’ve cleared about $10,000 worth of drugs off the street in the past half year, and that’s from three pounds of marijuana, almost six ounces of heroin and just under two ounces of methamphetamine.  That’s coupled with 30 arrests based on 59 calls to the department,” he explained. Miller added that when people call, they’re connected to a voicemail tip line that records your information and callers are kept anonymous.  That number is 336-1435.

Chief Miller noted there has been a 22% drop in major crimes from March 2016 to March 2015, “That may be attributable to a change in how we’re moving our patrol shifts around town, but we’ll need more information to determine if it isn’t an anomaly. ” He said some changes will also be needed in the way the department gets search warrants.  The traditional ways, he said, aren’t as useful, so some alternatives will be explored.  “We may suspect some houses in the town that are a focal point for drug activity, but getting evidence to conduct a search warrant is harder.

Councilman Kirk Crespin added that he has spoken to the local school board on drug use in the schools and they determined mis-use of prescription drugs or opiods outweighed heroin or meth. Students will get into a relative’s drug cabinet at home and some take whatever is available, whether it’s 20 years old or even chewing on morphine patches in one case.  Miller said most of his marijuana arrests are either young kids with only small amounts of the drug or one person holding a lot.  Regardless, the canine unit can smell out any type of drug, grass or pills.  Miller added that local pharmacies and doctors are now coordinating their sale of prescription drugs.  “Before, people would doctor-shop and use a prescription to buy from several places at one time to increase the amount they had and either sell the excess or use it themselves.  Now, they coordinate using a common database to check that abuse isn’t being practiced locally,” he explained.

City Administrator, John Sutherland, spoke about the nature of the meeting. “We want to be able to put what we’re hearing into context with what’s really occurring.  We hear a lot of anecdotal info and the council wants to determine the reality of drug use in the town, are we awash in this…is there a tidal wave of drug use in Lamar?  This is something we wanted to determine,” he stated.  Sutherland said Lamar Fire Chief, Jeremy Burkhart, as deputy county coroner and heading the EMTs, would have firsthand information on related overdoses or drug deaths.

Chief Burkhart provided lists of 35 overdose calls responded to from April 2015 to the present. He noted that of those calls, 13 were intentional with prescribed or over-the-counter drugs.  “I think Lamar has a situation of mental health issues,” he told the council, adding, “The average age of these was 16 and there were no repeats.”  He stated that there was no particular part of Lamar where this was occurring over any other section.  “Our calls came in from all parts of town.  There was no emphasis on one section over another.” He noted for that fiscal year, there were seven overdoses for heroin, seven for alcohol abuse, three for methamphetamine, two were unknown and were treated with Narcan to counter the effects of an opioid and one was unintentional.  Burkhart explained that medical confidentiality didn’t account for someone being driven to an emergency room by a private party, so his numbers could be lower.

Their departments note a correlation to drug busts and a drop in overdose calls, but nothing as substantial as they’d like. There may be some badly cut drugs coming in which prompts an increase in overdose calls as well.    Burkhart added fewer overdose calls occur in the winter and hardly any in the summer months, “Just about six this past summer and that was all.” Chief Miller said with the approach of summer, School Resource Officers won’t be in touch with the students, but there has been some consideration of beginning a Citizen’s Academy for high school students or re-starting the Explorer Post which would teach students about police work to foster interest in law enforcement as a career.  He added that using a $2,000 donation for local businesses, he’s purchasing flyers from the Child Safety Council, to address drug use and anti-bullying issues.  He added his officers favor having down time with area youngsters, stopping to play some basketball while on patrol for a few minutes or just relating to them without being a policeman.  “Our officers also schedule a lunch with students at school once a month,” he explained.

Mayor Stagner added the public needs to become involved and call with their concerns of drug use in their areas. Miller commented on that statement, “If we had 3,500 set of eyes out there, bringing things to our attention, we could put a crunch on drug use in the community.  We get three to four drug tip calls a week.  They aren’t very detailed, but we can compile information from that and track calls that mention the same neighborhood and check that area for any crimes over several months for an indication of drug sales.  The police chief added that the police have issued trespass violations for homes or businesses.  “The violators are told they can’t go back into those locations and if they do and they’re guilty of a theft or burglary, that notice takes it to a class 4 felony from a petty theft offense with harsher penalties, so it limits their movements around the community.  We’ve gotten five or six arrests on this,” he added.

Miller noted that the annual drug takeback hosted at the Lamar Police and Fire Department will be on Saturday, April 30th from 10am to 2pm.  Residents can return old or unused prescription pills and medications for proper disposal, but no needles, syringes or sharps will be accepted.

By Russ Baldwin


Filed Under: City of LamarCountyEducationFeaturedHealthHot TopicsLaw EnforcementPolice ReportPublic SafetySchoolYouth


About the Author: