The most common crimes in Moody County are drug related, a state report shows.
The Moody County Sheriff’s Office had 27 drug arrests in 2018, and the Flandreau Police Department had 64 drug offenses plus 20 other arrests drug equipment violations, according to the South Dakota Attorney General’s recent crime statistics report. The violations for drugs mirrors the state trend with drug charges dominating the crime list.
Local authorities say the drug problem is still a big issue for the community.
It’s going in the wrong direction and becomes a crime that touches others in the community, said State’s Attorney Paul Lewis.
“We just see repeat offenders again and again and again,” he said. The state will need to either build a new penitentiary or get serious about offering counseling and therapy. “Otherwise the wheel is going to continue to turn and turn and turn.”
Along with drugs, the county has seen an increase in abuse and neglect cases as well. “This isn’s just a one-person crime,” he said. “This is definitely a community crime.”
At the beginning of 2019, the county made the state’s attorney position full-time instead of part-time because of the growing criminal caseload and the sheriff’s office added an officer. Public defenders who have a contract with the county also said their cases are growing in number.
Law enforcement agrees that methamphetamine use continues to be the biggest drug problem.
While other drugs are in the community, the sheriff’s office hasn’t had to deal much with people using fentanyl, opioids or heroine, said Sheriff Troy Wellman.
Drug use has emboldened other crimes, too, he said. That includes burglaries and thefts.
“People are getting a little bit bolder trying to find the money they need to get their drugs,” he said.
With growing crime in the county, Wellman encourages people to protect themselves from being a victim. Lock homes and cars and take the keys with you. Don’t make rural areas easier to be the site of a crime, he said.
In addition to drug offenses, the county saw 17 other offenses for assaults, thefts and weapons violations last year for a total of 44 more serious offenses. Moody County also had 97 other offenses, including disorderly conduct, driving under the influence and liquor law violations.
Some of the offenses were dismissed but the sheriff’s office had a total of 188 reported offenses in 2018, compared with 129 in 2017 and 157 in 2016.
Of those charged, 1 was a juvenile and 43 were adults.
In the city of Flandreau, police made 79 arrests in addition to the 84 drug-related crimes for a total of 163. The additional arrests included assaults, thefts, burglaries and vandalism.
The drug arrests include methamphetamines, prescription drugs and marijuana, Chief Zach Weber said. While drug use might not be increasing, “it’s not getting better,” he said.
The city also saw 204 other arrests for more minor offenses, including driving under the influence.
The police department had 499 reported crimes in 2018, compared with 490 in 2017 and 535 in 2016.
Of those charged with a crime last year, 50 were juveniles and 113 were adults, the report showed.
Flandreau has a problem with juveniles committing crimes, although it might not be worse than in other communities, Weber said.
Compared with when he was growing up in Flandreau, kids are committing more crimes. “We didn’t have kids doing the stuff kids now-a-days are doing,” he said.
The community has a 10 p.m. curfew for anyone 16 and younger Sunday through Thursday nights and a midnight curfew on Friday and Saturday.
When juvenile crimes happen, a lot of times parents don’t know where their children are. “There is a parent accountability problem. A lot of parents just don’t care,” he said.
The police department added a school resource officer in early 2018 and that is making a difference, even though it takes time to see results.
“It has made an impact and that impact should only go up,” Weber said.
Statewide, law enforcement agencies reported a total of 45,142 arrests involving 75,955 offenses last year. The more serious offenses accounted for a total of 20,675 arrests.
Drug offenses state wide increased by 49.37 percent in the past six years. In 2018, drug offenses in the state outnumbered all other arrests at 8,205. That compares to driving under the influence arrests of 6,087.