The Ste. Genevieve County Sheriff’s Office conducted a drug awareness educational seminar on June 22 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Bloomsdale to inform residents about the dangers of drugs and enlist their help to fight drugs in the county.

The program was hosted by the Sheriff’s Office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who work together as part of the Mineral Area Drug Task Force, which works in Ste. Genevieve, St. Francois, Iron, Madison and Washington counties.

The seminar was sponsored by Bloomsdale Excavating.

Sheriff Gary Stolzer said although there are fewer meth labs today than there were in the early 2000s, drugs still are present in Ste. Genevieve County, and different drugs — such as heroin, marijuana and designer drugs — are taking the forefront.

“Our county is not free of drugs by no means,” Stolzer said. “But we are very fortunate here in Ste. Genevieve that we don’t see some of the problems that you are seeing in the severity you do in our neighboring counties. We can’t kid ourselves. The neighboring counties are the reason we have some of the issues we have in our county. If we don’t combat what’s around us, we’re not going to have an effect on our county.”

Juston Wheetley, a corporal and public information officer with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said eradicating drugs in the county starts with support from parents and the community.

“When it comes to drugs and communities and relationships, this is where it starts,” he said. “It starts with education. We can’t do it ourselves. We need help out there, and we need a team.”

That’s where the community comes in, he said.

“You can help us by reporting [drug or suspicious activities],” Wheetley said.

Wheetley said it is “amazing” how much the drug of choice differs from county to county.

“Over in St. Francois County, especially Park Hills, it’s heroin,” he said. “I talked to deputies around here [in Ste. Genevieve County], and they said they see a lot of the designer drugs, which are drugs that mimic the effects of other drugs, like spice and bath salts. Those mimic the effects of cocaine and marijuana.”

Trooper Tim Craig, a member of the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s narcotics division, said meth is still around, but the numbers of labs have dropped significantly in the last few years.

In 2012, there were 2,006 meth labs discovered in Missouri, with six in Ste. Genevieve County and 71 in St. Francois County.

In September 2015, there were 403 discovered statewide, with one in Ste. Genevieve County and seven in St. Francois County.

Craig said Missouri has been known as one of the top-producing meth states in the country, but it’s not because Missouri has the biggest meth problem.

“I think it’s because Missouri is more proactive and more aggressive in investigating these cases,” he said. “And we’re putting more resources toward those to protect our communities.”

See complete story in the June 29 edition of the Herald.