Heroin becoming drug of choice in SE Missouri

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KAIT) – A recent drug bust in Poplar Bluff highlights a growing problem in Southeast Missouri, according to police.

The Poplar Bluff Police Department arrested Carlos Rutherford of St. Louis last week on several counts, including possession of heroin. The incident illustrates what police are calling a "pipeline" of heroin from the big cities to small communities, like theirs.

"Greed's taking over," Det. James Morgan said. "They're finding an outlet for the heroin, and they're taking advantage of that."

Morgan has seen the focus of his work change over the years as narcotics detective for the Southeast Missouri Drug Task Force. The Rutherford arrest shows a growing supply and demand for heroin in the area.

"We work a lot of crack-cocaine investigations as well as meth. Those were two of our primary ones along with prescription medications," Morgan said about his case load. "Now, we're seeing heroin falling into that picture."

Police arrested Rutherford last Thursday. A search warrant uncovered 12 grams of "pure heroin" at his girlfriend's house.

"It's a significant amount for us in this area," Morgan noted. "It's the most I've personally seen in Poplar Bluff."

Police also took photos showing the drug paraphernalia and packaging materials seized at the home. Empty capsules, called "buttons," are used to distribute the heroin, which can cost anywhere from five to 20 dollars. Morgan says the smaller the town, the higher the price.

"Heroin in the larger cities is cheaper than it is here," he explained. "The dealers are making more money in these small, rural communities."

Economics are not the sole factor driving the increase. Poplar Bluff police cut off a prescription medication supplier a few years ago – sending addicts elsewhere to get their fix.

"They're trying to use as much of the heroin as they were the prescription medications, and they're (overdosing)," Morgan said.

Morgan and other officers have learned to handle the growing number of heroin cases, but he says more work is needed to cap off the pipeline coming from the bigger cities.

"Recently, we started obtaining information of people who are identifying the sources, and that's who we're going after at this point," Morgan said, adding: "We're definitely giving it our best shot."

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