Prescription drug abuse is on the rise again in Juneau.
Juneau police seized a total of $1.9 million in illegal drugs in 2013, ranging from marijuana plants to heroine and cocaine.
The Juneau Police Department report was released to the public Thursday. It shows a dip in the amount of heroin seized last year, but an increase in OxyContin and other prescription medicines after a sharp decline from 2011 to 2012.
The drug numbers are released annually in a report to the Alaska Department of Public Safety, which also goes to the state legislature. Lt. Kris Sell says JPD decided to release the numbers directly to the public this year, because drug abuse is such a problem in the capital city.
Juneau has struggled with drug issues to such an extent. You know so many families have been impacted by this issue that we wanted to tell them what we’re seeing as soon as possible and directly.
The report compares the numbers of drugs seized in 2013 with the previous two years. It shows that 970 Oxycodone pills worth more than $156,000 were confiscated, compared to 275 pills in 2012. Heroin seizures went down, while methamphetamine grew almost two times between 2012 and 2013.
Lt. Sell says police are seeing an increase in Oxycodone from Canada, but the main sources for all illegal drugs in Juneau are California, Oregon and Washington.
“Drugs are very expensive in Juneau, as you can tell from the totals. So there’s a very high profit margin, bringing drugs out of Seattle and Portland and California,” Sell says. “You can make money doing that or you can try and steal enough money or other items to pay for the drugs. We’re finding that people with drug problems are our most likely burglars. And many of our burglary suspects are involved with drugs. So drug crimes are really attached to every other crime.”
Sell says more new drugs are appearing in Juneau, including MDMA, called Molly, or Ecstasy. More than $17,000 in Spice also was seized by Juneau police last year. Spice is a designer drug sometimes considered synthetic marijuana.
“But that makes it sound really more benign than it is, because this Spice has been known to cause severe hallucinations and really aggressive, violent behavior,” Sell says.
While most narcotics come into Juneau by air and the U.S. Postal Service, Sell says the postal service has worked hard with police to interdict illegal drug packages, which accounts for the larger number of seizures last year.
Juneau police opened 137 narcotics cases in 2013, and 41 defendants were charged with 65 crimes.