Pennington County drug report’s low numbers fail to display reality of drug epidemic

Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 4:58 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office releases data regularly concerning drugs in the community.

However, the Unified Narcotics Enforcement, or UNET, who often go undercover to fight against drugs, say those reports aren’t capturing the full scope of the drug epidemic in Pennington County.

“I’ve been involved in drug investigations off and on since 2012,” says Sgt. Casey Kenrick, UNET’s Supervisor, “and it’s exploded exponentially in those almost nine years. It’s to a level where I didn’t think this area would get to.”

Sgt. Kenrick says that the data is failing to reflect the full picture.

“There’s a lot of things that go into statistics in how they get pulled and where they get pulled from, and what are the parameters of those statistics? And they’re not only on face value with what you can take from them. At this time,” Sgt. Kedrick says, “the numbers that are captured by the Sheriff’s Office and released to the public do not include those large scale investigation indictments into federal court.”

He says there’s been an up tick in those federal court-level big drug busts that happen within Pennington county, but aren’t being represented in the data.

“There’s a lot of things that come into play when you’re dealing with these numbers. We’re working through those, [and] trying to provide the public with an accurate number of what’s going on. But, always,” says Sgt. Kedrick, “there’s just a difficulty in getting our arms around some of these statistics and releasing accurate numbers.”

“So, what we’ve seen in the last multiple years is just an increase in the quantity of drugs,” Sgt. Kedrick adds, “and then with that comes an increase in the quantity of money and greed. The things that result from that are violence. There’s been an unprecedented amount of firearms seized in these cases that we’re investigating. Every other crime in this area and in our city is related to drugs... property crimes, personal crimes, are related to illegal narcotics.”

“By enlarge,” says Sgt. Kedrick, “all of the drugs that we have seized originated in Mexico.”

“We had an investigation recently that seized nearly 6,000 fentanyl pills. The DEA has a campaign right now. Their campaign says, ‘One Pill Can Kill.’ If that would have hit the street, we’re not really sure where that would have led. You look at the percentages of 6,000 pills of the chance of the potential lives that were saved in that seizure. I think that’s huge,” says Sgt. Kedrick.

He says if you don’t get a pill that is prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a pharmacist, you don’t take it.

“We don’t know what’s floating around in our community. A lot of these pills are professionally made so they appear to be prescription drugs. But,” Sgt. Kedrick adds, “the only way you know they are a true prescription drug is if you get it from a pharmacist.”

The fight against drugs isn’t exclusive to Rapid City.

“Just like every other area in our country,” Kedrick says, “whether it’s from the west coast or the east coast... sometimes the mid-west is a little slower with catching up with our counter parts on the other side of the country. And, I think it’s just coming to our area now.”

“So,” Kedrick explains, “I think I see our role as the task force as being a dam. Maybe we won’t hold back all of the water, but I think it’s worth the effort of trying to hold back as much as we can.”

Sgt. Kenrick says if you have a family member or friend who struggles with drug problems, although it might seem easier to let it run its course, there’s services available in the community to help. Like, the Care Campus. Which, he says is a good path to keep people away from the risks that come with the underground drug world.

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