South Plains Facing Narcotics Crisis, Lubbock County Sheriff Says

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The numbers of narcotics trafficked in Lubbock County have reached crisis levels, said Lubbock County Sheriff Kelly Rowe. 

Wednesday, Rowe spoke with EverythingLubbock.com about the surge in narcotics use on the South Plains.

“In the years prior to 2014 the numbers[of narcotics] stayed fairly consistent with some slight variations. But 2014 was just an explosion. For crystal methamphetamine, the increase was over 800 percent from the previous year,” explained Rowe.

He explained that prior to 2014, his officers would rarely ever seize more than an ounce of narcotics over the entire course of a case. Since 2014, most of their seizes have been at least a pound (if not multiple pounds) of drugs.

In just one traffic stop last week, his officers seized over a pound of cocaine and over eight pounds of crystal meth.

Rowe said that most commonly those drugs will be what he calls “the big three”: heroin, crystal meth, and cocaine.

“But in the hierarchy of the big three, crystal methamphetamine is by far our biggest threat here,” Rowe said. “You’re talking about a chemically made drug, which every ingredient that’s used to make it is a poison to the human body.”

Rowe has worked in Lubbock for sixteen years and has been sheriff for six. He said that narcotics are not new to the Lubbock area, but the quantity and quality of narcotics seized recently are a big change.

“When you go back ten or fifteen years, the quality of [the drugs] were just junk. Today we’re seeing stuff at the 90 percent state of purity,” Rowe explained.

Their investigations have shown that these drugs are not just traveling through Lubbock, but being distributed around the city.

His veteran officers have been shocked with the brazen way traffickers are willing to carry these large quantities of drugs.

Sheriff Rowe believes this increase in narcotics comes from the increase of Mexican cartels coming into the Lubbock area. 

“We see one cartel that has prominent presence here, and another two of the more significantly named groups as well,” Rowe said. Many of the details of the Lubbock County Sheriff’s cartel and narcotics investigations must be kept secret.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think what everybody understands is the cartels aren’t like dealing with your standard street gangs,” he added. “These are very well organized groups of individuals that have a very specific mission, and have gotten very good at carrying that mission out. We can take down a cell and their replacements can be back in town within two to four weeks, we’ve seen that repeatedly.”

Although Rowe believes South Plains law enforcement officers are capable of handling the cartel members and drug trafficking, he feels that in order to eliminate their presence entirely, federal changes need to be made. 

“First and foremost, there cant be any equivocation about the mission to secure our national borders, it begins there when these traffickers can get across to the U.S. relatively unimpeded,” Rowe explained. 

The sheriff said that so far, he hasn’t seen the federal change necessary to prevent Mexican cartels from reaching places like Lubbock. 

For Rowe, the spread of narcotics isn’t just a illegal activity, it’s a threat to the health of many people and families on the South Plains.

“[Crystal meth] is the type of drug that if your family member tries it one time, you’ll probably kiss them goodbye because you wont get them back again– it has an extremely low recovery rate,” he said.

Rowe added that his deputies are not just trying to get narcotics from off the streets, they’re working to stop the cycle which lands many addicts in jail.

“When you look at the demographics of a roughly 1200 inmate population at the Lubbock County Detention Center, 60 percent of those that are incarcerated currently are in for an addictive related offense. Although they may not be charged with the manufacture, possession, or delivery of the controlled substance, they’re in there for the burglary robbery or theft that they did to support the habit,” Rowe said. 

“We’re working real hard at the detention center through rehabilitative programming to get individuals away from this stuff and back into our community as productive citizens,” Rowe explained.

The sheriff added that while his deputies are on alert for cartel activity, local residents shouldn’t be afraid for their safety.

“I know law enforcement does a tremendous job of identifying, locating, and getting the individuals who present the most risk. Lubbock is a really safe place, but we’re taking the necessary steps so that the illegal narcotics [operations] find out short order that this is not a good place to do business,” Rowe said.

On January 11, Rowe also spoke about narcotics problems on the South Plains during the campaign kickoff for commissioner Bubba Sedeno, expressing the same sentiments:

“We have got a problem, we have got a crisis with the amount of narcotics that are coming into the country, and every day here.”

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