County, city officers find more drugs in traffic stops
Both the Minnesota State Patrol and Hubbard County Sheriff's Department are using unmarked cars in their new traffic stop arsenal. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)
Talk about it Traffic arrests throughout Hubbard County are starting to yield more than drunken drivers.
Officers are confiscating a Heinz variety of drugs, including methamphetamines, marijuana and prescription pills.
"It's not that we're having an epidemic, it's just that we know where to look," said Park Rapids Police Chief Terry Eilers.
County Attorney Don Dearstyne said he's noticed an increase in officer-issued citations, up drastically from two years ago, from both police officers and road deputies.
Two new officers, one on the Police Department and one on the Sheriff's Department, have each used past task force expertise to educate fellow officers, Eilers said.
Sabin Rasmus, the new police investigator, and Ricky Wuori, now a Hubbard County deputy, have shared tips with fellow officers about where to look for that tiny item of contraband in plain sight that can trigger a search warrant and a more thorough examination of a motor vehicle.
In rare cases persons stopped for traffic reasons give permission to search. They may be regretting those decisions.
"It's surprising where these guys are stashing their stuff and if you know where that's at, you can see something loose, that gives you probable cause," Eilers said. With proper training, officers can now quickly spot key areas in a vehicle they might have overlooked earlier.
One need look no further than the court reports on Page 8B in today's Enterprise to see how the traffic stop landscape has changed.
Numerous drivers and passengers have been ticketed for drugs. Luck accounts for only part of the seized stash, Eilers said.
"The car Sabin is driving was a drug car that was full of drugs," he said. "We confiscated the drugs and we confiscated the car and charged some people.
"The guys are just being really aggressive on it. It's not that we've got a big epidemic going on out there it's just that we're able to find them out there a little bit more because of the training," he said.
The Police Department recently sent officers Dan Garner, Justin Frette and Carrie Parks to a four-day search seminar put on by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. The officers promptly shared their newfound knowledge with fellow officers.
"We're starting to see a pile of prescription stuff," Eliers said. "That's huge out there. That's where your epidemic is at, with the prescription stuff, and that's coming from all walks of life. They're stealing it from Grandma's cabinet and drawers, stealing it from cars. People leave it laying in cars and it gets stolen. People are selling prescriptions or sharing or whatever."
Eilers said there are many new mind-altering substances in the public realm that almost necessitate "having an on-duty drug guy and a pharmacist" on staff just to figure out what it all is.
"We've always had a drug problem in this county and it's how it's been addressed," Dearstyne said. "We're getting very good enforcement of it in the last year. It's not that all of a sudden it came here. Now the officers, through better training, better overall supervision they're out there finding it."
Dearstyne praises both deputies and officers for the escalating workload he's seeing in his office.
"We have had an increase in traffic and the activity law enforcement is bringing us," he acknowledged.
"There's a significant number of it (drug finds), yes," Dearstyne said.
"I'm very pleased with the operations of both departments," he said. "They're out there. We're getting a lot more from the Sheriff's Office than we did two years ago. And consequently when they're making traffic stops they are going to find other things. It's kind of the nature of the beast."
Sheriff Cory Aukes could not be reached for comment by press time.