By L.L. Johnson
“We made a decision to be proactive,” said Itasca County Sheriff Vic Williams, “to protect our community from the ordeal of synthetic drugs.”
Along with Grand Rapids Police Chief James Denny and Lieutenant Steve Stracek from the Duluth Police Department, Williams presented information on the issue of synthetic drugs and the steps Itasca County has taken to confront the issue. His presentation was this month’s program at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon.
The room was filled with health care professionals, school personnel, and community business owners and employees. The size of the crowd was an obvious indication of the interest in the topic. Those in attendance learned what steps are being taken to prevent a repeat of Duluth’s Last Place on Earth - a headshop that was finally closed last fall after a protracted battle with both the city and federal government.
Williams noted counteractive measures have been taken here, including the synthetic drug sale ordinance passed in several cities and by the county. In addition, he said early detection of a problem with synthetic drugs was important and asked for the community’s help. The ordinance makes it nearly impossible for anyone to open a storefront and sell synthetic drugs in local cities. The county ordinance does the same for those areas not within a governmental entity.
Denny noted his department has seen an uptick in violent crimes, an increase in arrests for disorderly conduct, and an escalation in the incidences of domestic violence because of the drugs. Currently, he said, there are no storefronts operating in the area.
Stracek reviewed the battle in Duluth with The Last Place on Earth, which sold synthetic drugs on Superior Street. After several years of legal battles, a conviction of the store owner was secured in October of 2013.
The three law enforcement officers noted the devastating effect such a storefront can have on families, businesses, and the community as a whole. They solicited the voice of the business community to contact state lawmakers to encourage them to put “more teeth” into the battle with this ever-changing drug scene.