SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - The heroin epidemic has been making headlines in Wilmington for the last several years. Law enforcement officials say as they have begun to get a handle on that drug, a new drug has come in to fill the void.
Methamphetamines are not new, but New Hanover/Pender County District Attorney Ben David said they are on the rise in our area.
“Historically we have seen methamphetamines be a much bigger problem in the western side of the state and particularly in the mountain regions. It has changed,” David explained of meth moving east.
It’s already a big problem in Duplin County, and David said he’s coordinating a regional approach to keep it from getting a stronger foothold in Wilmington.
“These drug organizations have substantially lowered the price of meth compared to what we historically saw in an attempt to get people to use it, to transition from heroin into methamphetamines,” David said.
We used to hear about people buying the ingredients for meth at local drug stores, and cooking the drugs at home in dangerous meth labs that sometimes caught fire. That still happens, but is not the only way meth is getting here now.
“Unfortunately what we’re seeing now is it has become a much more sophisticated," David said. "Drug cartels are now importing very pure methamphetamine into this region. Particularly just to the north of us.”
Since the problem often extends past the boundaries of any single district attorney’s territory, prosecutors are now taking this fight federal.
Nine months ago, officials opened a federal prosecutors office in New Hanover County, with 2 prosecutors specifically assigned to drug crimes. The federal approach allows prosecutors to go after these drugs at the source, no matter where that is.
Since March, the district attorney’s office has been asking for a $1 million bond for many arrested on drug charges, sending a strong message to other drug traffickers.
Because they are being charged federally, the federal government pays to detain the suspects until trial, saving the county a significant amount of money. There are currently 43 inmates who have been taken into federal custody here on drug charges.