Drugs seized

This is methamphetamine confiscated last year during a traffic stop in Rusk County.

Law enforcement in Rusk County recognized a growing presence of methamphetamine and have teamed up to take on the war of drugs in the community.

Rusk County Sheriff Jeff Wallace and Ladysmith Police Chief Kevin Julien recognize methamphetamine, their users and the impact left on the community and have decided to join together to stop the drug.

In a press release released last week by the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office, the two law enforcement leaders understand and recognize this issue is a problem in our community. The departments are partnering to take on the task of working on ways to keep the citizens of Rusk County safe and rid the community of this dangerous drug.

Since Christmas, the drug task force has made 37 drug-related arrests in Ladysmith and Rusk County. Most of those are arrests were methamphetamine related; but other drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin have been a factor in some of those arrests.

Julien said he’s been approached by county supervisors, community members, city aldermen and others asking about what is being done about the community’s meth crisis. This joint drug task force is actively working to tackle those concerns. “The community and law enforcement recognize meth is a significant problem, even legislators,” said Julien.

Wallace called the methamphetamine problem in Rusk County sad and a problem that has snowballed. With meth addiction, users are often hooked the first time they use the drug, then those users get someone else addicted.

In some ways, methamphetamine is more readily available than marijuana, according to Wallace. 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, in 2000, American spent $64 billion to buy illegal drugs and in 2001 over six million children lived with at least one parent who abused or was dependent on alcohol or illegal drugs.

One big factor in methamphetamine use is mental health. Another issue is poverty, according to Julien. “Meth and drug use along with mental health issues go hand in hand and poverty combats it,” said Julien.

The issue of drug use goes beyond the immediate impact of the user him or herself. As a result of the increased methamphetamine and drug use in the county, Rusk County Health and Human Services has had to remove an increasing number of children from their homes, according to Wallace. Domestic abuse and mental health issues are both on the rise as drugs increase.

“Meth affects the county as a whole, everyone who lives here has to deal with it,” said Wallace. In 2020, as a result of COVID-19 domestic and drug related incidents increased.

In the four years Julien has served as Ladysmith Police Chief, he said this is the most arrests for methamphetamine that he’s ever seen in Ladysmith or even in the history of the department. In 2005, when Julien arrived to the community, the focus was on manufacturing meth and now today, the focus is more on using and selling it.

Wallace has seen the impact of meth increase in the county in the seven years he has served as Sheriff.

“We are attacking as hard as we can,” said Wallace. “It’s a sad day when you have to take heroin and fentanol off the streets,” said Wallace in speaking of a recent traffic stop.

Rusk County has two K9 deputies who are regularly used to discover and seize drugs. The K9 deputies have been highly influential in their role in discovering drugs, making it easier for law enforcement officers to catch distributors, users and those transporting the drugs.

The K9 deputies are certified to detect the four most common drugs in our area methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and heroin.

While it may be tough to think about, a lot of the methamphetamine in Rusk County is coming from the Mexican borders, said Julien. The drugs travel from the Mexican border to large cities like Eau Claire, the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, where it is sold to users and dealers who bring the drug to Rusk County. Rural Wisconsin is impacted by the borders.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, since October 2020, 3,474 pounds of methamphetamine, alone, have been seized at checkpoints. During the 2020 fiscal year, the CBP seized 156,901 pounds of methamphetamine. The amount methamphetamine seized has been on a rapid increase since 2014. Other drugs seized at the border checkpoints have also seen a steady increase during that time as well.

Numerous drug-related organization and drug trafficking groups produce methamphetamine and smuggle it into the United Sates from Mexico through “combinations of Mexican nationals residing in Mexico and the United States, Mexican-Americans who operate on either side of the border, and illegal aliens residing in the United States,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA.

Large amounts of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine are smuggled into the U.S. every day. The DEA says the drug trafficking groups “regularly demonstrate their flexibility and adaptability, modifying smuggling routes and methods as needed to handle virtually any drug.” 

Also according to the DEA, personal cars remain the most used way to transport illegal and illicit drugs into the U.S. While the DEA is discovering much of the methamphetamine is delivered to California from Mexico, drug traffickers are also operating in areas of the Denver, Houston, Phoenix, Seattle, and St. Louis Field Divisions.

In Rusk County, the drugs have been found during traffic stops, with the help of the K9 deputies, and while serving warrants, said Wallace.

Law enforcement officers have fully, 100 percent supported the drug task force, according to both Wallace and Julien. 

“I live here, my kids go to school here,” said Julien who does not want to see drugs in the community.

Law enforcement officers often have to deal with people at their lowest which is sad to see. One key aspect of meth is that it does not discriminate. Men, women, young, old and every group in between can be affected by meth.

Wallace and Julien believe attacking the meth and drug problem in the county will take a group effort. Both departments are using any and all information and tips they can to gain control of the problem. 

They are urging the community to come forward to report drug related behavior and activity. Law enforcement uses the information they get to help take drugs off the streets.  

Partnership with the community, law enforcement, courts, Department of Corrections and even legislators all working together to stop the impact of drugs is an effective strategy. While sometimes the state will offer grants for community initiatives, the drug task force is some something Wallace and Julien have come together on after recognizing a dire problem. The departments are not receiving grant funds to help with this initiative.

The county also has an EDGE program for fifth grade students. EDGE replaced DARE and is an eight week program that Deputy Burt Zielke works with students at each of the schools with. Zielke helps the students to identify the most concerning topics to the students and then works to educate the students about the negative impact drugs have. 

For those who have information about methamphetamine or other drug and want to report it, information can be given to law enforcement officers. Anonymity is strictly kept, according to Wallace.

The Rusk County Sheriff’s Office has a Kids Tipline, 715-532-2296, that kids can call anonymously to report drug related information.