Law enforcement facing three new worrying trends
Fentanyl, suicide threats and the need to employ force during arrests all on the rise locally
April 14, 2022
Law enforcement in Crook County is facing three new – and very concerning – trends. According to Sheriff Jeff Hodge, there have been local increases in the use of fentanyl, suicide threats among the youth and the need to employ force during arrests.
“Some of the trends I think people are not aware of – and, if they’re not, they should be,” he said last week.
Fentanyl, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), is a synthetic opioid up to 100 times stronger than morphine. It was developed for pain management in cancer patients but is also a growing issue as a controlled substance.
Often added to heroin to increase its potency, fentanyl can be a serious problem when the user is unaware of its presence and consequently overdoses.
“We’re starting to see more of it in the surrounding areas and we’ve actually made arrests and we’ve had overdose calls in Crook County. It’s here,” said Hodge.
“We’ve been dealing with some issues at the school with suspected fentanyl, but we’re not positive and we really can’t prove whether it was. It was either fentanyl or it was horse tranquilizer. They’re slipping it into people’s drinks and vape pens and stuff like that.”
The Crook County Sheriff’s Office has been working with the kids in the county schools on this issue and will also be working with the teachers.
“It’s definitely an issue and it’s a rising issue,” he said.
A second trend, said Hodge, is for students at the county’s schools to make suicide threats or actually attempt suicide.
“We’re seeing a huge, huge increase in that stuff right now. I don’t know if it’s just the world we’re living in,” he said.
“Talking to the parents and some of the kids, there’s a lot of chitter chatter with the kids.”
Hodge was referring to the fact that suicide appears to have become a regular topic of conversation among students.
“Talking to the kids, it sounds like it’s just a common thing for them to sit around and talk about how to commit suicide,” he said.
Hodge stated that he is not sure how much of this can be blamed on the pandemic, as Crook County citizens led “about as normal a life as it was possible to live in the United States” and had comparably few restrictions.
If could also be partly due to the arrival of kids from outside the area with more “street smarts” than local kids have traditionally possessed, he said.
“We’re seeing a different attitude,” he said. “They are definitely teaching the rural kids a little more street smarts.”
Again, said the sheriff, “It’s not just Sundance, it’s county-wide – it’s Hulett, Moorcroft and out in the county. We’re just seeing a huge influx of suicide attempts and suicide threats.”
No mental health issues appear to be associated with the known threats and attempts. Things have changed, Hodge said; you used to have to pin the kids down to get them to tell the truth, but, “It’s not like that anymore.”
Use of Force
Following a taser deployment in Sundance recently, Sheriff Hodge warned that “Our use of force is way up”. Again, this is not just a local problem.
“I think it’s just law enforcement-wide,” he said. “Everybody wants a fight.”
Chases are going up, he said, and there has been more use of force, more taser deployments and more use of less-than-lethal options.
“That’s just normal nowadays, it seems like,” he said.