While crime rates in St. Charles Parish hover at a low rate, collective crime activity – including drug-related arrests – in the parish has been on an uptick recently as people begin to emerge from coronavirus quarantine.
“Sources tell us that COVID-19 had the effect of diminishing the supply of illegal narcotics across the country,” St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said. “Without going into detail, there were some indicators that the supply of illicit drugs from Mexico had diminished somewhat, but as with everything else, that seems to be increasing a little as well.”
The parish’s narcotics and patrol divisions have continued to work and investigate as normal throughout the last several weeks of quarantine, Champagne said, adding the patrol division makes up a significant portion of drug arrests – mostly as a result of traffic stops.
Champagne said while those in possession of drugs such as meth, cocaine and heroin are arrested, users of small amounts of marijuana are handled via a summons as opposed to physical arrest.
“We are constantly working the streets to detect and arrest drug traffickers and users as we come across them,” he said. “We target drug traffickers and will continue to do so.”
The primary and most common drugs Champagne said his department continues to see are marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin, in that order.
“Understand that a drug may not be trending just due to popularity, but because of price and availability,” he said.
The most commonly used illegal substance in St. Charles Parish, according to Champagne, is marijuana.
“I attribute this to the several states that have de-criminalized it over the last few years,” he said. “It’s use has, in my opinion, exploded among young teens … I don’t think this is a good thing … unfortunately, illegal drug use has always been with us and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
Champagne said just a few years back the most commonly abused drugs were prescription medication.
“Legislative bodies recognized this with the advent of the opioid crisis and made significant changes to the methods in which opioids were dispensed and prescribed,” he said. “As a result, these drugs have been harder to come by on the black market.”
Champagne said users, unable to access the prescription drugs as easily, then turned to heroin and meth.
“They are just as much, if not more, dangerous,” he added.
Champagne said his office has always battled drug abuse from a multi-front effort.
“We first hope to deter drug use through educational problems, such as our long-standing DARE Program,” he said. “I also credit our youth summer camp program as helpful in deterring drug use as well … hopefully we are reaching a large number of youngsters with that message.”
Champagne said he believes the opening of a drug rehabilitation center in the parish would be a positive step in helping drug users.
“Drug abuse, in my opinion, is suicide in slow motion,” he said. “Drug abuse and addiction are hard demons to shake … it takes a life-long commitment.”