04/15/2019- Taking a front-seat look at how local law enforcement is combating drugs in our area during a ride-along with the Marinette County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputy Steve Schmidt had just reached Niagara where he was on patrol for the night when the first call came in over the radio. He arrived on scene to assist in the search of a vehicle that turned up a small amount of methamphetamine. As one of two Drug Recognition Efforts in the Marinette County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Schmidt says he’s had contact with this suspect before and shows frustration, but not necessarily surprise, over running into him again. Drugs have been at the forefront of the county’s criminal activity for a number of years and it’s why Deputy Schmidt chose to become DRE certified in the first place.
Deputy Schmidt says meth has replaced heroin in the top spot for drug use and trafficking in the county. Part of it could be the cost, but more likely, he assumes, is addicts are simply looking for a different type of high.
Michigan legalized the recreational use of marijuana last year and Deputy Schmidt says he expects a similar proposal could be coming down the pipe for Wisconsin soon. The biggest issue, he says, is that THC affects everyone differently and for different durations, creating a potentially dangerous situation when someone gets behind the wheel high. Complicating the matter further is that the pot on the market now, according to Schmidt, is significantly more potent than it used to be.
There’s a personal effect of the work, too, for Deputy Schmidt. He’s married and has two children and says it’s the cases he deals with involving kids- both drug-related and not- that impact him the most.
The enforcement work Deputy Schmidt and other officers do is just the front end of dealing with the local drug problem. Marinette County’s Drug Court, which works to rehabilitate addicts convicted of non-violent felonies, continues to see increased participation numbers, so much so that the county had to begin a wait-list for the program last year.