Ask cops what concerns them most when it comes to crime in Southwestern Virginia and they usually answer in two words: Crystal meth.
Methamphetamine use and production is rising to epidemic levels throughout the area and that use leads to other crime as users turn to robbery and break-ins to finance their habits.
Floyd County Sheriff Shannon Zeman says fighting the growing meth problem is a priority for his department, even as his budget and resources are sapped by budget cuts.
“It’s out there and we have to deal with it,” he says.
Sheriff’s Department Chief Investigator Jeff Dalton tells The Roanoke Times that meth is involved in 60-to-65 percent of drug-related charges in Floyd County.
“We see more meth than anything else,” he says.
The Virginia State Police says meth drug seizures and lab discoveries are up 300 percent in the last year and meth “tweakers” have turned to a simpler, single-pot method of making the drug.
Crystal meth is highly addictive for those who use and extremely lucrative for those who manufacture and sell the drug. The money potential attracts gangs who move into rural areas to try and control the drug market.
Dalton tells us that Roanoke-based gangs like the Bloods and Crips operate in Floyd County. Gang-related graffiti is appearing more often in the county, although a recent “gang tag” in the town of Floyd turned out to be the work of some teen-aged wannabes.
Not all of the meth that is flooding the area is locally-made. Mexican meth is also on the rise, costs more and provides more profit for pushers.
But when meth is produced locally it creates a hazard not only for users of the drug but also for others. Meth labs are highly-toxic, volatile and can easily explode. The cost to taxpayers for cleaning up a meth lab starts at more than four grand.
The drug destroys the health of those who use it. Users face organ breakdown, discolored skin, destroyed teeth and death.
It’s a killer drug and one that is all around us in Floyd County and Southwestern Virginia.