After years of headlines dominated by heroin and methamphetamine, cocaine and crack cocaine have made a quiet surge in Walworth County.
The number of cocaine delivery arrests so far in 2018 (58) has already rocketed past 2017’s total (33), according to arrest data from the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office.
In 2015, the sheriff’s office tallied only eight such arrests.
Arrests for cocaine possession have not reached 2017’s total (24), but the 21 sheriff’s office arrests in 2018 is only one fewer than the total for 2015 and 2016 combined—and 2018 isn’t over yet.
Those figures cover both powder and crack cocaine. After tallying only eight crack cocaine delivery arrests from 2015-17, the sheriff’s office has recorded 16 such arrests already this year.
Capt. Robert Hall of the sheriff’s office and the Walworth County Drug Unit said meth use has dropped over the years while heroin and pills have been on an “even keel.”
Meanwhile, cocaine has “trended more over the last couple of years, where its numbers have traditionally been down,” he said.
Hall said he had “no idea” why cocaine-related arrests are up.
“Everything that’s old is once new again,” Hall said. “Things just, I think, work in a cycle at times.”
Cocaine, a stimulant, is produced from coca leaves. It can be snorted, dissolved in water and injected, or smoked in the form of crack, according to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
The drug’s effects on the body, according to the DEA, include an intense euphoric rush with increased blood pressure and heart rate. Other effects include insomnia, stroke, sudden cardiac arrest and a post-high crash that can result in depression, sleep and physical exhaustion.
Some factors that could fuel the amount of attention given to heroin/opioids or meth are their fatal and hazardous natures, respectively.
Heroin and opioids such as fentanyl caused more overdose deaths in 2017 than cocaine nationally. Meth can explode during production, which requires common materials bought at a pharmacy.
Still, trends in drug crime enforcement ebb and flow based on time and resources. The trends do not always correlate perfectly with the amount of drugs present but hidden from law enforcement’s attention.
Hall said sheriff’s officials do not investigate cocaine any differently from heroin and other drugs. And although heroin delivery and possession numbers in 2017 were not as high as 2015, Hall said they are still investigating heroin activity, which continues in the county.
Hall said some dealers sell all different kinds of drugs, too.
The data shared with The Gazette reflect arrests. When looking at different data on the amount of cocaine the sheriff’s office seized from 2015 to 2017, the surge is still apparent.
In 2015, the sheriff’s office seized 24 grams of cocaine.
In 2016, it was 55 grams.
In 2017, the number was 675 grams.
Drug trends are unpredictable, Hall said, and what the trends show does not always continue on a straight trajectory.
“If I could look into the crystal ball … We wouldn’t have a drug problem in Walworth County,” Hall said.