MARQUETTE COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) - The war on drugs continues to be a problem in the Upper Peninsula and around the country. Local law enforcement has been busy making arrests, but there’s still work to be done.
In 2017, meth cases in the Upper Peninsula have been on the rise. In Forsyth Township alone, meth labs and other addictions are becoming a common problem. "We've had a meth lab or two this year, one just recently that we've discovered, so that's probably as far as you consider a big drug arrest, meth is probably our leading one still," says Gordon Warchock, Chief of Police of Forsyth Township.
According to Warchock, many drug addicts have started on prescription drugs but now are looking for harder drugs to keep their high. "What happens often times is someone might get addicted to a prescribed drug and develop a horrible addiction to that, and when that prescription is no longer available to them, they're just going to try and find the next drug that fills that need, and that could be a drug like meth or heroin that they're trying to get the same effect out of," he describes.
Warchock also says that about 16,000 to 17,000 people die each year due to addiction. To try and reduce these numbers, law enforcement has implemented programs like UPSET and DARE to try and alleviate the drug problem.
"Through the Forsyth Police Department and the Gwinn school board, starting next semester we are implementing and reinstituting the DARE program in the schools to try and get the message to kids at a young age again to make good decision in life and do these kinds of things," Warchock says. "UPSET has expanded during this past year and we now have offices in all four directions of the Upper Peninsula. We have north, south, east and west teams. We're working very hard with our local partners at the city and county level to combat this problem and we're having really good results and we do work well together," says Robert Pernaski, Detective First Lieutenant for Michigan State Police.
Michigan State Police's Angel program also helps those who have a drug problem and are trying to get clean. Several counties in the U.P. have started the Angel program and are seeing success. “The program is based on a program that initiated out east and angels are standing by in the community, they're people who have been trained to facilitate the treatment and to provide help for people who are seeking treatment and there will be no questions asked. If you come into the post saying that you want help for an addiction, the Angel Program will be initiated at that point," Pernaski explains.
Meth and drug addiction in general is a growing problem, but law enforcement hopes that with these programs and continued law enforcement efforts will help alleviate the drug problem.
“In the long run to try and reduce drug crimes and try to stop addiction in that we need a lot more education and stop it before it ever starts because once they have that addiction, once they start using those drugs, and trying to stop and change that behavior becomes a lot more difficult," says Warchock.