Drug seizures on the rise

Published 7:53 am Thursday, March 7, 2019

Drug seizures for Minnesota’s Violent Crime Enforcement Teams (VCET) increased in several major drug categories in 2018, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

VCETs, which are partially funded by the Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs, are multijurisdictional task forces that investigate narcotics, gangs and violent crime. VCETs have increased their efforts to identify major drug traffickers, focusing on high-level dealers and suppliers.

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For the 11th straight year, VCETs seized a record amount of methamphetamine. In 2018, 1,145 pounds of meth was seized, compared to 624 ½ pounds in 2017 and 68 pounds in 2007, when meth seizures were at their lowest level. At the height of the meth lab problem in 2003, there were 410 labs seized. For the ninth straight year, there were less than 30 as most of the methamphetamine is coming from Mexican drug trafficking organizations.

Methamphetamine overdoses attributed to 160 deaths in 2017, the latest available data.

The increase in drug seizures corresponds with studies that have found a rise in drug use among Minnesotans and nationally. According to research conducted by Dr. Tyler Winkelman of Hennepin Healthcare, hospitalizations related to methamphetamine increased nationally by 270 percent from 2008-2015, faster that any other form of substance abuse. The number of women using methamphetamine during pregnancy has increased significantly since 2008, particularly in rural areas.

VCETs also report a 115 percent increase in marijuana seizure in Minnesota from 2017 to 2018, mainly in the form of marijuana wax. Much of the product is imported from states that have legalized marijuana. VCETs have also noticed a three-year increase in cocaine seizures after years of declining numbers.

Not all drug seizures increased in 2018. VCETs reported a decrease in prescription pills, heroin and crack seized in 2018.