By KATHRYNE RUBRIGHT
Drug possession charges for methamphetamine are outpacing charges for heroin and cocaine this year in Hancock County, and are on track to double compared with 2018.
In 2015 and 2016, just three or four charges were filed each year for meth possession, according to numbers provided by Hancock County Prosecutor Phil Riegle. That total rose to 13 charges in 2017, and jumped to 43 charges last year.
This year, with 42 charges filed through June 11, meth possession will likely be double what it was last year. Charges for possessing heroin are one-third as common as meth, with 14 charges so far this year.
Total charges for possession of heroin, cocaine, oxycodone and hydrocodone, fentanyl and methamphetamine have increased from 97 in 2015 to 217 last year, with 108 charges filed this year as of June 11.
Cocaine was the most commonly possessed illegal drug from 2016 through 2018, but has been surpassed by meth so far this year.
No charges for trafficking meth were filed in Hancock County in 2015. From 2016 through 2018, five, one and six trafficking charges were filed, but it is possible additional secret indictments are yet to be released from those years.
An up-to-date trafficking number for 2019 isn’t available due to unreleased secret indictments.
The increase in meth cases reflects what Findlay Police Sgt. Justin Hendren, who works with the multi-county drug task force METRICH, has seen. There is “definitely an uptick of meth” in Hancock County over the past 18 months, he said.
The Hancock METRICH Enforcement Unit seized 195.4 grams of meth in 2017, and more than 10 times that — 2,055.6 grams — in 2018.
“We’re trending below that” so far in 2019, Hendren said, but “one large seizure” can heavily impact the numbers.
Meth has become more available and cheaper, compared with heroin, Hendren said, though heroin is “obviously still an issue.”
The meth isn’t generally made here. It’s “higher-grade methamphetamine made in a lab somewhere,” as opposed to homemade “shake and bake” meth, Hendren said.
Riegle also cited availability as a factor in meth’s rise. There’s “a fair amount of meth coming from Mexico,” he said, and it’s “high-quality crystal.”
Meth was a factor in the one fatal overdose that has been confirmed this year in Hancock County, according to coroner’s reports released so far. The February death was attributed to combined drug toxicity from meth, fentanyl, acetyl fentanyl and cocaine.
A fatal overdose attributed solely to methamphetamine toxicity was recorded in December 2018.
Meth is not listed as a factor in other 2018 overdoses, though some coroner’s reports list “combined drug toxicity,” without listing some or all of the drugs involved.