Eau Claire (WQOW) - The Eau Claire Police Department said local crime rates are on the decline, but the drug fueling many crimes, methamphetamine, is still on the rise.
Eau Claire Police said they are becoming more effective in identifying methamphetamine as an underlying problem to crime. The Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department said there are about 300 people in the Eau Claire County Jail. In 2011, about 29 percent of the jail bed days were for operating while intoxicated arrests. That dropped to 14 percent in 2016, which the department said was good news, but methamphetamine arrests are following an opposite trend. Just 2 percent of jail bed days were for methamphetamine arrests in 2011 compared to 21 percent as of June 30, 2016. The sheriff's department said methamphetamine's burden on taxpayers is heavy, but hard to calculate while considering the price of incarceration, hospital services, court cases and more.
Eau Claire Police said there were more than 10 methamphetamine arrests in the county in 2010. This year, the sheriff's department said the county is on track to prosecute nearly 300 meth cases. Police said of those arrests, only one-third are for methamphetamine possession or sales. The other two-thirds of calls to officers are for other crimes that are fueled by meth addiction, like burglary, child neglect, domestic violence and more. Police said the community can help by protecting themselves and becoming educated about resources to fight meth addiction locally.
"Prevention is the best solution for all of this," Eau Claire Police Deputy Chief Matt Rokus said. "If you are going away from your home, lock your doors. Tell a neighbor that you trust you are going to be gone. If you see something suspicious, report it. Call the police. If you know somebody who is impacted by methamphetamine, reach out to one of the many resources that are available in Eau Claire for treatment or other counseling services to help that family member or loved one."
Eau Claire County does have a methamphetamine response committee made up of county officials to increase community outreach and awareness about meth use in the area. They have a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter called More than Meth. The committee also has a website with important information about the court system's response to this problem, and how anyone can find resources for those struggling with a drug addiction.