Meth crisis on the rise in Mercer County

MERCER COUNTY, Illinois--In the rural parts of Mercer County an alarming drug problem is on the rise.

Mercer County leaders are calling it a meth crisis.

"It's a very scary drug, it's a very scary problem and we need to figure out what to do with it," said Sheriff David Staley, Mercer County Department.

Staley said since 2016 meth arrests are up roughly 30 percent most of them coming from traffic stops.

"Seems there isn't a week that goes by or a day goes by that we don't make a meth arrest somewhere in our county," said Staley.

According to Staley it doesn't look like those numbers will get better in 2018.

Five days into the new year two meth arrests were already made. One of them being right outside the sheriff's office.

"Seven or eight years ago when I was a patrol deputy it was a surprise when you found meth in a vehicle it’s not a surprise anymore," said Staley.

It's an endless cycle Mercer County Patrol will battle until they find a long term solution.

"They get out on bond, they get sentenced to probation, they fail their probation, and they just start the whole process again," said Staley.

Staley says Mercer County doesn't have a rehabilitation program, but it's a possibility.

"As far as addictive, this is a tough one to kick and unless we figure out a way to do some sort of a treatment program that these folks can go through while on probation. It’s the only way we stand a chance of getting it stopped ," said Staley.

The meth problem was brought up to the county boards meeting last Tuesday.

"It worries me excessively with this drug use because when you look at some of these designer drugs like methamphetamines you take it one time and you’re addicted," said Dr. Brian Anseeuw, Mercer County board member.

Anseeuw claims high property taxes, people moving out of the area, and job loss are likely factors behind the drug use.

"You see the financial situation decrease. And you start seeing increased crime, you see increased drug use and that's what's we're seeing here in Mercer County," said Anseeuw.

Some property tax rates in Mercer County are up to 12.5 percent and he says that drives people out from living in the area. Leaving behind others  with the tax burden.

"If you go further down to the west side of the county there’s going be abandoned buildings abandoned houses and that you see the decay and everything you see right now that’s a result of that," said Anseeuw.

The drug crisis will be discussed further at the county board's next meeting in February.