Twenty-six people were arrested on drug charges over the past week in Clinton County. They join three more who were arraigned in November. Three more indictments remained sealed until the named defendants are arrested.
The large volume of arrests has flooded the Clinton County Jail with new inmates and places a financial burden on taxpayers, "but (it is) a necessary expense to fight this war against the sale of controlled substances in Clinton County," said Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie at a press conference Friday morning.
Two-thirds of those arrested already had criminal records, with charges ranging from driving while intoxicated to possession of a firearm, said Clinton County Assistant District Attorney Doug Collyer.
A third of them were previously charged with felonies, he added.
First-time felons are offered a treatment program for their alleged drug addiction, Collyer said.
This year, Clinton County has seen some of its highest numbers of arrests and investigations related to narcotics.
And a local prevalence of drugs underscores the national problem, said Assistant Special Agent in Change for the Albany District Office of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration James Burns Jr.
State Police Troop B Narcotics Unit Lt. Brent M. Davidson said that 2012 has brought the highest volume of controlled substance purchases in all of Troop B's area of jurisdiction.
About 75 percent of the criminal cases the D.A.'s Office has prosecuted in 2012 have been narcotics-related, Collyer added.
And this year, it has prosecuted 69 total defendants through grand jury on sale and possession of controlled substances, which include heroine, cocaine, crack, prescription pills, meth and other drugs, Wylie said.
And the DA's Office is in the process of prosecuting eight cases related to discovered methamphetamine labs, Wylie said. His office closed another meth case earlier this year, he said.
DROP BOXES AVAILABLE
Although the investigation of the 32 people most recently taken into custody is only in its infancy, and they were all charged in local drug activity, it is possible that any one of the defendants was involved in cross-border drug-smuggling, said U.S. Border Patrol Patrol Agent in Charge Norman Lague.
Drugs trafficked across the border are typically brought in large quantities bound for metropolitan areas like New York City, he said.
Twenty-five of those arrested in the drug sweep were charged with the criminal sale or possession of prescription medication, as compared to illicit drugs like heroin or cocaine. Officials responded to the statistic, speaking about their prescription drugs "takeback" program.
Medications may be dropped off with no questions asked 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the State Police Troop B Headquarters in Ray Brook or the Plattsburgh City Police Department.
The collection of prescription drugs will prevent them from being illegally sold and used and will have an "immediate impact on the quality of life of law-abiding citizens," Burns said.
In the first weekend the City Police Department drop box was open, 10 pounds of medication was collected, not including the weight of the packaging, said Plattsburgh City Police Chief Desmond Racicot.
"It (the box) fills up very quickly," he said.
The medications are disposed of in an environmentally friendly and safe way, Davidson and Racicot said.
Wylie pointed to the corrosive nature of illegal drugs, as is shown in the faces of drug users in general.
"It's just amazing how they can deteriorate so quickly from the use of these drugs."
The message needs to be clear to those in the area engaging in the illegal use or sale of drugs, said Clinton County Sheriff David Favro.
"We will find you, we will arrest you, and we will prosecute you."
By FELICIA KRIEG Press-Republican December 21, 2012.