PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Officials with the Greene County Sheriff's Office told Region 8 News Thursday 78 people have been arrested so far this year on meth-related charges. In 2008, the county arrested 55 people on similar charges. Police said the reason the total is larger than 2008 is because manufacturing is easier and less time-consuming.
"There is a new one pot method, which is, we're seeing much more of. It's very easy to obtain the precursors to make the meth and the location doesn't have to be out in the wide open. It can be in a bedroom or a bathroom or something like that," said Sheriff Dan Langston with the Greene County Sheriff's Office.
"Our biggest increase has been in methamphetamine and one pot shake and bake meth labs," said Captain Patrick Lenderman.
Region 8 News learned of the spike in meth-related arrests after the FBI released criminal statistics for 2008. The report suggested 114 people were arrested on violent crime. The Greene County Sheriff's Office and Paragould Police Department said that number is very close to the previous year's total; however, the FBI report didn't include drug arrests. The Greene County Sheriff's Department said drugs are their number one problem.
"At the sheriff's department, we haven't seen a large increase in any type of violent crimes. We've only done a handful of violent crimes this year, aggravated assaults," said Lenderman.
"Has violent crimes? No. No. We still have our misdemeanors and felonies, but our high-tech crimes? No," said Langston.
Lenderman said a mix of the economy and one pot methods have increased the number of arrests in the county. He said more people are making the drug because it's made inside plastic bottles quickly.
Langston also said the court system isn't sufficient in Greene County.
"We have a lot of problems with getting these people into court. There's a backlog into the court system. Once they're adjudicated, there's a back log to get them into prison," said Langston. "It's something that has been a problem ever since law enforcement. It's money. You know, do we spend x amount of dollars to take care of this problem or do we put a band-aid on it? That's been the problem. We've just band-aided the problem instead of going and fixing it."
Langston said the growing population of Paragould is also forcing officers to work harder. The county employs 12 deputies and has no specific task force dedicated to narcotics.
"We were under the COPS program several years ago and due to failure to maintain that contract by our county government, we lost two deputies. We're kind of on the black list right now for that," said Langston.
Lenderman said things like Leads on Labs and photo sharing programs between police agencies help crack down on drugs.
"We have a lot of tools in the past few years that have come up as far as the electronic log book that they put in place to where we can keep up with people purchasing pseudoephedrine. It's helped us out a lot," said Lenderman. "Knowing that their associates are also buying pseudoephedrine and stuff like that, that's helped us out a lot."