Co­caine surge part of na­tional trend, in­ves­ti­ga­tors say

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - SCAR­LET SIMS

FAYET­TEVILLE — More pow­dered co­caine has hit Wash­ing­ton County streets this year than last, and that wor­ries law en­force­ment of­fi­cials.

The 4th Ju­di­cial District Drug Task Force re­ported it seized 4 ounces of co­caine from Jan­uary through June 2016. Dur­ing the first five months of this year, the task force seized 4 pounds and 8 ounces.

The task force also has seen an in­crease in co­caine dis­tri­bu­tion, Sgt. Ja­son French said.

The task force is made up of of­fi­cers from 12 agencies as of June 30 and in­ves­ti­gates drug-re­lated crimes in

Wash­ing­ton and Madi­son coun­ties. The Fayet­teville Po­lice De­part­ment is the lead agency. French headed the group un­til last week and has moved to the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion divi­sion. Sgt. Christo­pher Moad is now over the task force.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors found about 3 pounds re­cently in one home, French said. That’s an un­ex­pect­edly hefty amount, he said.

Janet An­nette Glad­ner, 37, of 1725 N. Woolsey Ave. in Fayet­teville, was ar­rested April 7 in con­nec­tion with traf­fick­ing about 2 pounds of co­caine, among other felony charges, ac­cord­ing to a pre­lim­i­nary po­lice re­port. Law en­force­ment searched the home and found co­caine, mar­i­juana, ec­stasy pills, a gun, drug para­pher­na­lia and one box of “un­known round patches from China,” ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

The patches likely were Fen­tanyl, a dan­ger­ous form of a syn­thetic opi­oid, said Ti­mothy Jones, res­i­dent agent in charge with the U.S. Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion in Fayet­teville. In­ves­ti­ga­tors are more wor­ried about a pos­si­ble heroin or opi­oid epi­demic in North­west Arkansas than co­caine, but co­caine is dan­ger­ous, he said.

The task force is find­ing more co­caine and has more on­go­ing co­caine cases, French and Jones said. Co­caine avail­abil­ity re­mains be­low that of metham­phetamine, Jones said.

Arkansas re­mains in­un­dated with metham­phetamine, Jones said. About 8 pounds of metham­phetamine was seized in May, ac­cord­ing to the task force. The same month a year ago, law en­force­ment of­fi­cers seized 16 pounds, in­clud­ing 26 ounces of metham­phetamine ice, ac­cord­ing to records.

Glad­ner also had a ledger and ma­te­ri­als used to an­a­lyze, pack­age and store co­caine, ac­cord­ing to Wash­ing­ton County Cir­cuit Court doc­u­ments. She is free on $40,000 bond and has a trial date of July 11.

About 0.04 ounce of co­caine has a North­west Arkansas street value of about $100, French said.

French said in­ves­ti­ga­tors don’t know ex­actly where the co­caine is com­ing from be­cause those ar­rested so far have been un­co­op­er­a­tive. The co­caine does not ap­pear di­rectly linked to South Amer­ica, he said.

Colom­bia has ratch­eted up pro­duc­tion of the drug since 2013, ac­cord­ing to this year’s re­port by the U.S. De­part­ment of State’s Bu­reau for In­ter­na­tional Nar­cotics and Law En­force­ment Af­fairs.

Most of the co­caine sup­ply in the U.S. comes from Colom­bia, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral stud­ies re­leased last year. Co­caine is an ad­dic­tive stim­u­lant made from the leaves of the coca plant na­tive to South Amer­ica, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional In­sti­tute on Drug Abuse.

Co­caine had been de­clin­ing na­tion­ally since about 2006 but seems to be mak­ing a na­tion­wide come­back, fed­eral re­ports show. U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion seized 37,500 pounds in 2014, com­pared with about 60,000 pounds in 2015, ac­cord­ing to a U.S. Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion sum­mary re­port. Both num­bers are be­low the 73,000 pounds seized in 2010. The num­bers are the most re­cent avail­able.

That in­creased avail­abil­ity could be re­flected in North­west Arkansas, French said.

Lo­cal law en­force­ment isn’t sure if the spike in co­caine is an anom­aly or a trend, French said. Statewide num­bers for this year are not avail­able yet, French said. Jones said he thinks Arkansas is fol­low­ing the na­tional surge.

Ben­ton County Sher­iff’s Of­fice didn’t pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about co­caine ar­rests.

“Is this a sat­u­ra­tion or is [co­caine] here to stay, and we have a new prob­lem to deal with — or a re­oc­cur­ring prob­lem to deal with, in this case,” French said.

Co­caine use in­creased through­out the 1990s and peaked in 2006 be­fore mak­ing a steady de­cline, ac­cord­ing to the DEA sum­mary re­port. Lev­els in the U.S. cur­rently are lower than in 2006.

Deaths in­volv­ing co­caine were up na­tion­wide from 2012 to 2014, the sum­mary shows.

In 2014, 5,415 deaths in­volved co­caine, up from 4,404 deaths two years ear­lier, but still a de­cline from 2006, when 7,448 deaths were re­ported.

Lo­cally, the drug’s come­back could be a part of in­creased over­doses. Cen­tral EMS doesn’t track over­doses by drug, but its records show 457 over­dose or poi­son­ing calls in 2016 com­pared with 291 in 2015 in Wash­ing­ton County.

Co­caine can cause car­diac ar­rest lead­ing to im­me­di­ate death, gov­ern­ment re­ports show. The drug in­creases the risk of stroke, seizures, heart-mus­cle in­flam­ma­tion, heart dam­age and bleed­ing in the brain, ac­cord­ing to the in­sti­tute. Data from the 2011 Drug Abuse Warn­ing Net­work shows co­caine is linked to about 40 per­cent of drug-re­lated emer­gency room vis­its na­tion­wide.

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