Juvenile drug arrests on the rise in South Dakota

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Sioux Falls, S.D. - States across the nation are seeing a rise in drug arrests, but new numbers about our youth and those arrests are concerning.

A new report says South Dakota has the highest rate of juvenile drug arrests in the nation.

The study, done by Texas-based addiction counseling center Greenhouse Treatment, found South Dakota’s rate is nearly 25 percent higher than the next highest state and over twice the national average.

The number of drug arrests just keep rising.

“Having South Dakota be number one is concerning,” Prairie View Prevention Services Director Darcy Jensen said. “When something comes out and you're like wow we're at number one, at a place we really don’t want to be number one.”

The report from Greenhouse Treatment says there were 6,656 juvenile arrests for crime in South Dakota in 2017.

978 of them were for drugs.

The attorney generals office puts that number slightly lower at 5,270.

1,056 of those were for drugs.

“We have an issue with our teens using and we need to be mindful of that and look at how do we change community norms,” Jensen said. “How do we make it not acceptable?”

Jensen says over the years she has seen the number of teens using drugs rise.

“People are starting to say well there’s nothing wrong with marijuana or it’s not bad to take a prescription, even if it’s someone else’s,” Jensen said. “Then we will see our use go up because their perception of harm or risk in doing that activity or taking that drug is down.”

Another factor in the rising numbers is that South Dakota is known as a high intensity drug trafficking area.

“With the two interstates coming through Sioux falls, it allows for opportunity, unfortunately, for drug trafficking and providing availability for meth, marijuana, and a number of other drugs that are then in our community and access for kids is there,” Jensen said.

Sioux Falls public information officer Sam Clemens said though, the majority of people police arrest for drugs are adults.

He said the number of juvenile drug arrests are about what you would expect for our population.

“I think it needs to be an effort not just law enforcement, they're doing a great job, but they can’t do that alone,” Jensen said. “It can’t be just parents. It has to be the community at large. Substance use and addiction kill people and we need to be mindful of that.”

The South Dakota attorney general's offices said the state has seen an overall increase of 49.37% in drug offenses over the past six years.

Jensen said the data from the report and the attorney general's office differs based on whether it was multiple arrests for the same person or if there were multiple charges for that one person.