Crime & Courts

Alaska State Troopers release annual drug report

The Alaska State Troopers released its 2013 Annual Drug Report Thursday, and according to the report's findings, a resurgence of heroin use and abuse of other opiates is a significant concern in the state's urban areas. Alcohol and marijuana continue to be the drugs of choice in rural areas, but seizures of meth, heroin and prescription drugs have been made in the smaller communities.

"Members of Alaska's law enforcement community and others who are part of Alaska's criminal justice system have long known that the greatest contributing factor to violent crimes, including domestic violence and sexual assault, is drug and alcohol abuse. It is also widely recognized that many of the accidental deaths that occur in Alaska are related to alcohol use," the report says.

It also notes those bruises to Alaska's reputation are especially true in the state's western regions.

Alaskans' drugs of choice include all the usual suspects: alcohol, cocaine, heroin, pot, meth and prescription drugs. Troopers report they've identified those drugs as the primary substances getting residents high, substances that are the primary focus of "most Alaska law enforcement efforts."

Last year, the number of meth labs troopers investigated remained steady at five. But despite the small number of labs seized, troopers say, meth from Outside sources continues to be readily available throughout Alaska.

Troopers seized about 35 pounds of meth in 2012. In 2013, that number dropped to 11 1/2 pounds. The number of meth-related arrests and charges were 182 and 187, respectively.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Anchorage, Juneau and North Slope Borough police departments, and the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport police provide statistics for the troopers' annual report, too. Altogether, the agencies nabbed an additional 40 pounds of meth. However, the airport police in Alaska's largest city saw none of the drug and the North Slope department seized 16 grams.

Meth seizures in Anchorage increased by 4 percent in 2013.

Heroin use isn't isolated to Alaska cities, though it's a major concern for urban police departments. The Anchorage Police Department reported a 94 percent increase in heroin seizures. A total of 5.67 pounds was seized, they say.

"Drug induced overdose deaths in the Anchorage area continue to be a concern for the (APD's) vice unit. Enforcement efforts targeting heroin use and distribution are being increased in an effort to reduce deaths related to heroin overdose."

In the secluded Alaska capital of Juneau, several shipments of heroin were intercepted in 2013, and street values subsequently soared to an average of $1,000 per gram in the city.

Heroin and meth are imported to Alaska by parcels and body carriers, the report says. The Alaska U.S. Attorney's Office regularly sends out press releases touting convictions statewide of drug mules and dealers. Many of the offenders are caught with both of the drugs.

Troopers recognize alcohol as the primary substance of abuse in Alaska. A total of 108 Bush communities have voted in favor of local option laws, which ban the sale, importation or possession of booze, or all of the above. Still, alcohol finds its way into off-the-road villages through a number of methods. Some rural residents opt to concoct "homebrew" in their bathtubs and washing machines.

"The economics of illegal sales of alcohol is staggering," the troopers reported. Out in Alaska villages, each dollar of booze purchased in Anchorage can return $15. The price of marijuana quadruples, and cocaine sells for 1 1/2 times the big city price.

It's not a problem finding pot in Alaska, troopers say. In fact, they said the state exports the drug due to its "extremely high quality." However, there is a significant market for marijuana grown in British Columbia, Canada.

"(Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit) teams continue to find extremely sophisticated indoor growing operations. Most commercial marijuana growing operations are found in communities along Alaska's road system."

Many grow operations are found during or after fires, the report says. Troopers eradicated 38 grows in 2013, down from 65 the previous year. The number of pounds and plants seized also fell. Marijuana-related arrests and charges dropped by about 150.

Near the bottom of the troopers' report, in the Alaska trends section, it notes the emergence of synthetic cannabinoids (aka "Spice") and bath salts. The report simply notes their emergence and reported negative effects, and that the state has passed laws meant to prohibit their sale and possession.

Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.