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  • Last modified 16 days ago (Nov. 27, 2019)

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Drug crime sparks public action

Staff writer

Darla Spencer knew it was time to publically step forward when Florence teens started voicing concerns about methamphetamine use in their community.

“That’s what really got me fired up,” she said. “We work with the youth group, and they started commenting about different places drugs were being used and things they had seen. We could tell it bothered them.”

After speaking with the sheriff’s department and county attorney’s office, Spencer held a public meeting Monday in Florence to raise concerns about the problem.

“Once a statement’s made, the people doing this stuff will either continue and get caught or they’re going to get out,” she said.

The meeting drew 20 community members, but Spencer said tackling the problem on a larger scale was her goal.

Cracking down on drug crimes might require more time and resources than local law enforcement has available, Spencer said.

“If our law enforcement isn’t able to step up to the plate and start cracking down, then we bring in higher ups to come in and set up,” she said.

The sheriff’s department collaborates with outside agencies, but discussing the specific level of cooperation is classified, Sheriff Rob Craft said.

“I have to be careful because I can’t discuss things that are going on in that department,” he said. “I will say we’ve had discussions with persons outside this department, personnel sharing to deal with some of this.”

In addition to a public meeting, Spencer said she spoke with Topeka’s Drug Enforcement Administration in hopes of getting assistance from a larger entity.

“Where this will go, I don’t know, but hopefully we start hearing,” she said. “Hopefully it becomes something our officials and those we elect see as an issue, and we start to do something about it.”

While Spencer said the problem is severe, she sees it as a positive indicator that young people have called attention to the problem.

“They know it’s an issue they don’t like, so I’m very proud of the youth,” she said.

Spencer said she went with Marion County Planning and Zoning to complain of a house with broken windows believed to be a drug den. As a crime issue instead of a zoning one, it was out of their hands, she said.

While Craft is aware some in the county are involved with meth, he said finding the necessary evidence is not easy.

“That percentage of the population is oftentimes recognizable by their actions and their associates,” he said. “Knowing it’s taking place and having the evidence to get in front of a court sometimes is difficult.”

A major limitation for the department is not having an employee specifically for drug investigations, Craft said.

“I don’t have the luxury of a person I can devote to the drug enforcement position,” he said. “If I did, that person would be extremely busy.”

Six meth labs were reported in 2018 across state, all in eastern Kansas.

Estimating meth use and production in Marion County is difficult because statistics aren’t available on a local scale, Craft said.

“I don’t know that anyone knows that number, honestly,” he said. “We can give a best guess or something like that, but that’s all it is.”

Last modified Nov. 27, 2019

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