Pennington County 2016 crime report shows large increase in meth arrests

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The Pennington County Sheriff's Office released their annual crime statistics report on Wednesday.

The report highlights developments within the department over the past year, and breaks down county crime numbers for 2016. While some statistics remained relatively stagnant, the report does highlight a 35 percent increase in methamphetamine-related arrests. The number rose from 551 in 2015 to 742 in 2016. Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom says methamphetamine continues to be an epidemic statewide.

"We see a number of interdiction stops on the highways. State patrol has been very effective. Those are people that sometimes are passing through, sometimes are bringing drugs to our area and then just more local use."

READ MORE: Rapid City community takes action, following meth forum

In addition to the rise in methamphetamine arrests, the number of violent crimes is trending upward. That includes a rise of 2 percent in domestic violence and 11 percent in robbery and theft. Thom says meth could be the root of these increases.

"Methamphetamine clearly leads to other crimes. We see it in terms of violence, we have seen ours and the police department, both officer involved shootings had a nexus to methamphetamine recently, and the other violence seen in the community. Then it relates to property crime to people are stealing to support their drug habits.”

In addition to rise of meth-related arrests, Pennington County saw an increase of 16 percent in DUI arrests, from 284 in 2015 to 331 in 2016. Thom says the county is cracking down on DUIs thanks to grants to help pay for deputy overtime.

 The report also highlighted community involvement, Pennington County Search and Rescue, and accomplishments within each division of the department.

The full report can be found here..

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