Northland drug epidemic on the rise, upcoming community forum us - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

Northland drug epidemic on the rise, upcoming community forum used to continue combat issue

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Northern St. Louis County is battling a drug epidemic with the number of drug-related arrests on the rise.

KBJR 6 spoke with police about the concern.

There are two things Sergeant Jeff Ronchetti wants people to take away from a community forum coming up next week..

"Awareness, vigilance," said Hibbing Police Department's Sgt. Ronchetti.

There they will address the rising drug epidemic in St. Louis County.

"Knowledge is power, okay," said Sgt. Ronchetti. "And the more they know about what issues are in the community, the more they  can see, the more they can report, the more people that the police department can help."

So far this year, Hibbing Police have made 126 drug-related arrests.

In 2016, they made a total of 304 drug-related arrests. 

Sgt. Ronchetti said, "for drugs and total arrests, its about 14 percent of our arrests for the whole year."

The Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force seized 3.8 pounds of meth, 37 grams of heroin, 772 grams of marijuana and 4.5 grams of opium last year.

St. Louis County Public Health and Human Service social worker Jeff Polcher deals with this kind of stuff every day. 

"Something not relatively new here. Kinda shooting up the past couple years," said Polcher.

He has seen an increase in meth and opioid use, but especially a hike in heroin use.

"We're seeing a lot of overdoses in the community around here. We've had several fatalities over the last year," said Polcher. "One of the stats somebody just gave me over the weekend was 'we've had more people die from overdose in the United States this year than car accidents. They're anticipating 33,000 opioid deaths this year alone."

It's happening in your own backyard, and law enforcement wants to educate the public through this forum.

Polcher said, "there's no identifying an individual who is using heroin or methamphetamine by how they look."

And how, one by one, each person can make a difference and save a life.

"Without community base it's hard to change," Sgt. Ronchetti said. 

Nine speakers ranging from a judge to a recovering addict will come together for a forum put on by the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services to address the drug issue.

The forum takes place Wednesday, July 19, at the Lincoln Elementary School in Hibbing. 

About 200 people turned out for the last forum two years, and organizers are expecting much more on Wednesday.

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