SPOKANE, Wash. — As the crime and courts reporter at KREM 2, I spend every work day going through probable cause affidavits, the documents that lay out why someone was arrested.
I have been doing this for three years at KREM 2 and noticed a common theme among the majority of crimes I read about: Drugs.
I decided to keep track of the number of people arrested in Spokane with methamphetamine and heroin for almost two weeks. I can tell you, there were a lot of arrests.
“It's very common and it's primarily methamphetamine, though heroin is right up there with it," explained Spokane Police Officer JJ O'Brien. "We will arrest people on an outstanding warrant or a new charge, and during that search we find the controlled substance on them.”
When I read through court documents about break-ins, thefts, car chases, and even routine traffic stops, I can almost guarantee the words "methamphetamine" or "heroin" will pop up somewhere in the documents.
“Those are probably the two biggest drugs that we come across when we arrest people for possession of controlled substances,” O’Brien said.
After keeping track of drug arrests for twelve days, I found that roughly 75 people were arrested with methamphetamine or heroin, and sometimes they have both. That number though, does not include all of the search warrants filed where law enforcement are actively investigating people for drugs. In one case from earlier in October, one couple had methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine.
I see drug arrests in court documents every day. It is a problem everyone may not be aware of.
“For a good majority of people, they don't hear about it, so they think maybe it doesn't exist," O'Brien said. "But it's a problem, and many of the people arrested are using substances and/or at least possessing them.”
On September 25, 17 people who appeared in court were arrested with drugs on them. On the following day, eight people in court were arrested with either methamphetamine or heroin. That number is lower than the previous day, but that is still eight people in our community struggling with addiction and committing crimes.
Out of the 12 days I tracked, someone was arrested every day with either methamphetamine or heroin. This is not a new problem by any means though. Law enforcement have been dealing with it for years. O’Brien said the drug problem is as prevalent as it has always been.
As for a solution? There is no perfect answer. Addition is an awful thing that takes hold and only the person addicted can decide when to quit. There are also not enough resources for everyone who wants to get help. The Opioid Treatment Program at the Spokane Regional Health District has a waiting list of about 100 people.
However, I thought it was important to take a look at the numbers because I see drugs impacting our community in the form of crimes every day.
“People that use methamphetamine, do present a big safety concern. Their behavior is erratic and they are making very poor choices, which leads to safety issues,” O’Brien said.
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