Study shows South Dakota leads nation in juvenile drug arrests
RAPID CITY, S.D. — A new study shows that South Dakota leads the nation in drug arrests among young people.
The study was conducted by the Greenhouse American Addiction Center based out of Texas. It shows South Dakota has the highest amount of drug-related juvenile arrests, with 45 arrests per 10,000 people.
The numbers do not include the reservations.
Felony drug arrests among adults in Pennington County are also at an all time high. Compared to this time last year, arrests are up nearly 20 percent in 2019. According to Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom, the two problems are connected.
“Whatever’s going on in the adult world is also impacting what’s going on with juveniles,” said Thom. “Just the amount of drug arrests in our community, largely driven by methamphetamine. Young people are most often caught with meth, THC wax and prescription drugs.”
Authorities say from 2017 to 2018 drug arrests among kids almost doubled.
Juvenile Services Center Commander Joe Guttierez says social environment and personal perceptions play a large role in drug use among youth.
“Perceptions are huge. You’re judged based on your perception sometimes and if you hang around people who use drugs, you could be someone who might be using drugs as well,” said Guttierez.
Though juvenile drug arrests are a statewide issue, officials say West River arrests are different.
“The type of kids that we see on the west side are more aggressive, more physically aggressive, and maybe due to drug use, their offenses are a lot higher,” said Guttierez.
When juveniles are arrested they’re brought to the Juvenile Services Center on Cambell Street. There the low-risk kids are separated from the high-risk ones. They also have the choice to attend classes and visit with drug counselors.
Guttierez says they essentially try to find the least restrictive path for kids to heal and get on the right track.
“Rapid City has the best diversion program in the state,” said Guttierez. “And with that being said, most of the kids are diverted to programs instead of detention, and that’s a good thing.”