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Sheriff says drug offenders after higher amounts of contraband

NEW ULM — Brown County Sheriff Jason Seidl said drug seizures by Violent Crime Enforcement Teams (VCETs) follow a state-wide surging trend reported by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Tuesday.

Partially funded by the Department of Public Safety (DSP) Office of Justice Programs, VCETs are multi-jurisdictional task forces that investigate narcotics, gangs and violent crime. The VCETs have increased their efforts to identify major drug traffickers, focusing on high-level dealers and suppliers, the DPS reported.

“Things have changed over the years. Drug offenders are now after higher amounts of drugs,” Seidl said. “It takes the DTF (Drug Task Force) and other law enforcement working with the sheriff’s office to do successful buy busts.”

Seidl said drug enforcement is like fishing.

“Tips come in to police and the sheriff’s office that lead to investigations,” Seidl said. “Circles of trust can be small with pre-arranged buy busts (drug sting operations).”

Seidl said the money used for by the local DTF for drug buy busts is using money wisely.

“We don’t lose the money. We get it back and use it again to buy other drugs,” Seidl said. “Local law enforcement works great in these investigations. It shows up in arrests.”

Seidl said a number of big drug offenders are now in the Brown County Jail.

The Brown County Jail Roster Report on Wednesday showed 11 inmates including a 42-year-old man facing a sale of 17 grams or more of cocaine or meth within a 90 day period. His bail is $750,000.

A 44-year-old woman in jail is facing charges including first-degree drug sale and fifth-degree drug possession, a probation violation. Her bail is $600,000.

The DPS reported that VCETs dealt with more methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin seizures last year that previous years.

For the 12th straight year, a record amount of meth–1,706 pounds, was seized last year. That figure is a 642% increase over the last five years.

At the height of the meth lab problem in 2003, there were 410 labs seized. In 2019, there were four meth labs found in Minnesota.

Most of the meth comes from Mexican drug trafficking organizations, according to the DPS report.

Marijuana concentrates continue to grow with a 62% increase in seizures from 2018 to 2019. Much of the product is imported from states that legalized marijuana, according to the DPS.

Investigators find that much of the seized heroine contains fentanyl, a highly-dangerous, deadly substance, considered 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is fatal even in small amounts and when used with other synthetic opioids.

The report warned drug users to be aware of the serious consequences of taking substances because it is unknown what is actually in drugs like and including heroin. It is seized in pill, liquid and powder form.

In 2019, at least 135 people died of fentanyl or fentanyl compounds, 10 times as many as in 2015, according to preliminary data from the county medical examiner’s office.

After years of declining cocaine seizures, more has been taken in the last five years, due in part to increased production of coca plants in South and Central America, according to the report.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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