Delta County meth possession and distribution cases slowing down

So far in 2022 there are 52 felony meth cases compared to 182 in 2020.
Meth(MGN Graphics)
Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 8:47 PM EDT
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DELTA COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) - Meth addiction is affecting residents in counties across Upper Michigan, including Delta County.

Delta County has seen a noticeable increase in meth-related felony cases over the past eight years. In 2014, there were six total meth felonies, compared to 52 so far in 2022. Delta County Prosecutor Lauren Wickman said she sometimes sees multiple felony drug cases per week.

“The vast majority of those are methamphetamine-related possession cases,” Wickman noted. “We see a new methamphetamine possession case probably two to three times a week if not more.”

Despite the frequency of new possession cases in the county, the statistics show overall meth cases have gone down steadily since 2020. Wickman said there were 182 cases in 2020, 122 in 2021 and 52 so far in 2022. Even with this decrease, Wickman noted that drugs are directly correlated with many other crimes, including theft.

“Even if it is not a direct possession case almost every one of our other types of crime, particularly property and theft-related crimes, relate back to methamphetamine or drugs in general,” Wickman explained.

Along with the decrease in meth felonies, Delta County Sheriff Ed Oswald added that the inmate population has also gone down.

“Our jail population is actually a little bit lower than usual right now,” Oswald explained. “We are sitting at 102 inmates today. That is lower than we have seen since we were running up to 140.”

Oswald said at least 80 of these current inmates are serving time on a felony meth possession or distribution charge. As is the case with much of Upper Michigan, Wickman noted that many who are serving time got addicted to meth coming in from Wisconsin.

“Most of our stuff comes up from Green Bay or the Milwaukee area in large quantities, up to about three pounds of meth at a time, which is a huge amount of meth,” Wickman noted.

The Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team, or UPSET, works in Delta County to limit the number of drugs trafficked in. Wickman said that most meth arrests made by UPSET or other law enforcement are made in Escanaba and Gladstone. Wickman did add, however, that law enforcement agencies like UPSET are focusing on a new hotspot.

“Garden, Mich. is another place that the narcotics team has been keeping a closer eye on,’ Wickman explained. “Many times, we have stopped large amounts of meth before they get to the Garden area.”

Sheriff Oswald noted that much of the meth discovered comes from routine traffic stops as well as tips sent into the sheriff’s office.

“Most of the arrests seem to come off the road, through traffic stops or from information that officers have received,” Oswald said.

As for a solution to drive down meth-related cases, Sheriff Oswald said addressing mental health needs should be a top priority. He added that this could discourage people from considering hard drugs in the first place.

“I think that mental illness goes hand-in-hand with drug use,” Sheriff Oswald said. “I think if we get a handle on mental illness, we will see drug use and possession with intent to deliver cases decrease.”

Tackling mental illness is a big issue. Especially since Upper Michigan lacks much of the mental healthcare infrastructure enjoyed by more metropolitan areas. Until then, Oswald said many may continue to turn to hard drugs like meth.

Wickman and Oswald added that UPSET and Delta County law enforcement will continue stopping meth in its tracks wherever possible.

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