Northfield’s heroin problem: one year later

Northfield News Managing Editor Jaci Smith’s column in today’s paper is titled Heroin is here and it is a problem.

And one thing I was never completely confident of was the breadth of the “problem.” I could never really get an answer, even after I began working here, on the veracity of Smith’s numbers. He said that as many as 250 young people were abusing opiates in Northfield. I’m pretty confident now that he was right.

Reporters Suzanne Rook, David Henke and I have interviewed dozens of individuals on both sides of the battle: those who either knew of someone or themselves took or sold heroin and OxyContin (a pharmaceutical opiate) and those who were trying to save the abusers. We’ve spoken with medical officials, school officials, state health officials, county health and public safety officials and statisticians.


Here are the links to the Northfield News ‘Heroin One year later’ series of stories (final six not yet published):

Here are the links to the drug-related blog posts and podcasts we’ve done here on Locally Grown in the past year:


  1. Curt Benson said:

    Thanks to the News for reopening this issue. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series. The sentence from Jaci Smith’s column regarding “holding to account those who have the power to help, but won’t” is very provocative.

    Also, Griff, thanks for all you done on logrono. Fourteen drug related blog posts and podcasts is a lot of information. — And you’ve organized it so well here.

    July 5, 2008
  2. Lisa Guidry said:

    I think that those that attacked Gary Smith owe him a apology. There was a drug problem a year ago, and there still is. There are more stories out there, and many are too afraid to share their stories.

    July 5, 2008
  3. Kathleen Doran-Norton said:

    There was one line in the set of articles which surprised me, and that was the limited access to health care mentioned.

    Is it true there are no doctors here in town which are trained to handle substance abuse or prescribe necessary medication?
    What is the Northfield Hospital’s scope of service for mental health and substance abuse?
    Given the extent of the problems in this area, is that scope of service sufficent for this community?

    July 5, 2008
  4. kiffi summa said:

    Kathleen: I personally do NOT believe that the “scope of service” at our city owned hospital is responsive enough to the needs of the community.
    It has been said that Dr’s there do not want to have a Buprenorphine training/license because they are afraid it would take up too much time; but I also Have been told that any Dr. Licensed to administer ” Bup” can only have 20 patients on that specific case load.

    I think this is an area where our hospital has not stepped up to the community’s need, and I would very much like to hear their rationale. Maybe there is a lot the general public does not understand.

    I would think if the drug problem is as big in the NF AREA as where are continuing to find out it probably is, then I would think all the attendant service and counseling to families would be a good thing … Even a profitable thing ? … for them to get into.

    The hospital was almost completely silent during the whole Heroin “uproar” last summer, and that is NOT a good thing. But the people of the community also have the responsibility to ask their city owned hospital to more fully satisfy the community’s needs, if they feel it is not doing an adequate job.

    I understand that the SE MN Drug task force is essentially defunct (lack of funding) but that may allow our resources to be concentrated a little more narrowly and effectively.

    July 5, 2008
  5. Anne Bretts said:

    The hospital does play a role, but physicians provide the services. Allina has been the main physician pool for years, and Mayo just entered the game with the opening of the new clinics over the last year. Since these are outpatient services, the clinics probably would be the settings for providing them. I’m certain the hospital could create a clinis and find physicians to provide the services if it decided they were necessary, but the questions need to be aimed at Allina, Mayo and the hospital.

    July 6, 2008
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    Four new stories published in the Wed. Nfld News, linked above in the blog post:

    Jake’s story, Part 3: Nothing else to lose
    Gjeni’s story: Change comes one person at a time
    Neil’s story: Death of a friend leaves stark reminder
    Clinicians’ story: Withdrawal meds will come to town

    July 8, 2008
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    Five new stories/columns published in today’s Nfld News, linked above in the blog post:

    Law enforcement’s story: Looking for the trouble
    Recovering addict writes poem
    20-year-old tells his story of addiction
    School’s story: A tough test
    A year later … what has been done?

    July 12, 2008
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    Curt pointed out in comment #1 that in Managing Editor Jaci Smith’s column last week titled Heroin is here and it is a problem, she wrote:

    You’ll read about the deputy sheriff who won’t give up the battle and whose work on the county’s drug task force in the last year has turned a bright light on opiate use in northern Rice County. He says progress is being made, but that it will take nothing less than acknowledgment from all parts of our community that there is a problem to overcome and defeat it. We don’t have that right now.

    Maybe I missed it but did the News identify which segments of the community or which organizations or who in leadership positions are still not acknowledging Northfield’s drug problem?

    You’ll also read about one couple’s decision to turn the tragedy of the overdose death of their son into a call to action. Ken and Judi Malecha struggled mightily with the idea of publicly telling their story and we are honored that they chose us to help them tell it. In return, they asked us to hold accountable those who have the power to help but won’t. Ken and Judi, we will.

    Maybe I missed it but did the News identify those who need to be held accountable, “… who have the power to help but won’t”?

    I was hoping to see some specific criticisms of how area schools, law enforcement, chemical health, medical staff, non-profit organizations, churches, etc. have dealt with our drug problem before and after last year’s press conference by then-Chief of Police Gary Smith.

    July 12, 2008
  9. David Henson said:

    Griff – I would think Gary Smith would have the answer to “whom.” I still think if not a “Gary Smith Days” that Northfield at the very least owes him an official apology.

    July 12, 2008
  10. kiffi summa said:

    DavidH : I think Gary Smith has a lot of the answers … to a lot of things.

    Griff: Maybe the who, or whom, is all of us who have not done enough to either insist on the straight answers, from the schools, from the Hospital,and from our elected leaders, who might also insist on the straight answers from the schools, the Hospital …
    And maybe it just is the way our society is, right now, and the most important thing is not to find who to criticize, but how to help, whom, and when.

    July 13, 2008
  11. David Ludescher said:

    If Gary Smith had the answers, he never told us what those answers were.

    July 13, 2008
  12. kiffi summa said:

    I think Gary Smith did tell a lot of “the answers” especially if you read his long statement that was linked to, here on LG, and printed in a strongly edited form in the newspaper.

    Trouble was, people often don’t hear what they don’t want to hear… and then all the Roder/Smith/ Mayor/ council Crap (as my good friend Tracy Davis would so succintly say) exploded…

    July 13, 2008
  13. David Ludescher said:

    What did Gary Smith give Northfield on this problem except a black eye?

    July 13, 2008
  14. kiffi summa said:

    david L : Surely you don’t believe that dealing with a problem is inflicting a black eye”?
    That is truly “shoot the messenger” !

    The school district did not need to go all defensive and “holier than thou” , as if an existing drug problem was all their fault … this is a societal problem, and no one part of that society is completely to blame. But those who ignore a problem, as it grows, must surely be prepared to accept some responsibility.

    Would you rather hide the problem or deal with the problem?

    When the facts state that twice as many young men who live in Rice county, north of C.R. 1, have died of an overdose … twice as many as in Hennepin and Ramsay counties… well, if you are still fighting just on a numbers picture, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that you’re fighting with blinders on.

    July 14, 2008
  15. kurt larson said:

    David L,
    I don’t get it… blame the messenger?

    July 14, 2008
  16. Griff Wigley said:

    I think Gary Smith was right about some things related to our heroin problem (not all) but botched the handling of it horribly and further mishandled the subsequent outcry. And he may have also not done enough or the right things to address the problem for years prior.

    July 14, 2008
  17. Patrick Enders said:

    I think both Griff and David L are on to something here.

    July 14, 2008
  18. kiffi summa said:

    Griff, et al: the title of this thread is “Heroin: one year later” and it’s starting to look like the whole discussion of a year ago all over again.

    ONE YEAR LATER, we should no longer be evaluating what the “messenger said, did when, where he said it and to whom, and everything else including whether he had little wings on his shoes.

    It is time to listen to the professionals involved, people like Kathy Sandburg, Joan Janusz, and others, and insist that the most possible be done to provide the skilled services needed to users and their families.

    July 14, 2008
  19. Patrick Enders said:

    I think you are right. (Apologies, but I couldn’t resist an opportunity to agree with both David L and Griff at the same time.) Still, one problem with the bombshell of last summer was that little evidence was presented to support the Chief’s accusations.

    The Northfield News series has done an excellent job of proving that heroin is a cause of deep, unacceptable tragedy in this town. Sincere thanks (as well as deepest condolences) are due to the Malechas as well as all the other persons interviewed, for their bravery in coming forward to share their private experiences and losses for the sake of the community.

    The question is, what are our institutions doing to end this problem, and what can all of us do now? The Northfield News hasn’t seemed to answer that broadly (although I’m a couple issues behind in my reading, so I could be wrong), but it has offered a couple specific issues to be addressed.

    So I guess the first question is: who’s in charge here, and how would they like us to help?

    July 14, 2008
  20. David Henson said:

    Except that most the discussions here and all the Northfield News articles would not have happened if Gary Smith had not stepped up to the plate.

    Gary ~ you did Northfield a huge service – recognized or not – which is the definition of leadership.

    July 14, 2008
  21. kiffi summa said:

    Tracy: thank you … I was trying to get this moved so , David L, WHO would you believe on the drug use numbers?

    You didn’t say, but instead asked another question on the legal fees, which I’ll go back there to answer.

    July 22, 2008
  22. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: I would prefer to see the evidence, including some evidence that the police had a plan to deal with the problem.

    July 23, 2008
  23. kiffi summa said:

    I don’t know, David … your attitude about this seems to be all tied up with your attitude about Gary Smith.

    What “evidence” do you want to see? Four dead boys? Three more almost dead? Northfield professionals saying that all their colleagues in the cities are aware of NF’s problems and the severity because of the purity of the Heroin sold here? What?

    Some things can’t be “planned” away, but they can continue to be NOT adequately dealt with, because people turn away, here in this “special place”.

    July 23, 2008
  24. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: My “attitude” is about the policing tactics, not Mr. Smith. Police should not be calling press conferences without approval of their civil superiors. Police should not be investigating their bosses. Police should not consider themselves public health officials. Period.

    Lastly, when their statements are called into question, they should not react with silence, indignation, or personal (and untrue) attacks against the questioner; but rather should produce the facts that support their statements.

    July 24, 2008
  25. Patrick Enders said:


    What “evidence” do you want to see? Four dead boys?

    That would be tragic evidence that there is a problem.

    What we need is cooperation between school, police, health care, social services, elected officials, and the community to address the problem.

    July 24, 2008
  26. kiffi summa said:

    Patrick; According to the NFNews and the Rice County Drug Task Force, there were four deaths in the last year, from drug overdose, and those four young men all lived North of County Rd. 1, in Rice County. I didn’t make it up, Patrick.

    You’re right, that would be tragic evidence, and that’s why I said it … it IS tragic evidence.

    July 24, 2008
  27. Griff Wigley said:

    This paragraph from Barb Wornson’s guest commentary last week, Questions are still out there about addictions, is startling:

    Is Northfield really any worse than anywhere else? Yes. The recovery community in the Twin Cities is very aware of Northfield’s problem. Treatment centers and recovery schools know because they’re treating our children. And because the drugs here are so potent, there is a high rate of relapse.

    Sadly, many of our children have had to move away from home because they cannot live here without using. One professional shared that she’d never seen a community so “saturated” with opiates.

    July 26, 2008
  28. Patrick Enders said:

    I am aware of those tragic losses. As I wrote above,
    “The Northfield News series has done an excellent job of proving that heroin is a cause of deep, unacceptable tragedy in this town. Sincere thanks (as well as deepest condolences) are due to the Malechas as well as all the other persons interviewed, for their bravery in coming forward to share their private experiences and losses for the sake of the community.”

    Unfortunately, I apparently only did half an editing job on my post #26 when I decided not to post a statement to the effect that while those four deaths prove there is a problem, they do not prove that Chief Smith had done (or was going to do) anything effective to address the problem.

    July 26, 2008
  29. David Henson said:

    Another young woman has OD’ed in Northfield. This is one I and many others knew from Main Street and although troubled she was very sweet.

    This is really an out-of-control problem in Northfield. 5 Kids in one year. Maybe all public debates need to be stopped until this issue is resolved. I for one would really like to know if the FBI and the CDC are now involved in solving Northfield’s drug issue and if not why aren’t they involved ?

    I really respect the Northfield Police but are they just way over their heads with this problem ? I think they really need to let citizens know what is being done (in a very public and open way) right now ? This heroin problem is at a level where the Police and citizens are going to have to push the edge of constitutional rights in the effort to both chase suppliers and help users.

    August 25, 2008
  30. Jane Moline said:

    This is really a social and health problem more than a criminal police problem. I think we are asking too much of the police to expect them to stop addiction. What did you expect the police to do? Gary Smith understood that the police are not going to stop addicts (we don’t expect them to stop alcoholism–why drug addiction?) I continually hear from Griff, David L, and many others that it is Gary Smith’s failing that is somehow at the heart of the problem. Get off the Gary Smith whine and admit we have a serious problem that we need to address.

    I received a reference to an article on Portage, Michigan, a college town where they are experiencing addiction/drug overdose problems eerily similar to Northfields. We need to make a committment to not standing by while one more young person dies.

    August 25, 2008
  31. Jane Moline said:

    More young people have died from drugs in the Northfield area than car accidents.

    August 25, 2008
  32. Scott Oney said:

    David (#30): I think the state BCA would come first, but they, or the FBI, can’t come in unless they’re invited by the locals. And whereas you and I might applaud it, I’m sure some of the Leading Citizens, who have their own interests to protect, would go absolutely nuts if it happened. And I can see their point: There’s obviously more profit in “treating” 200 addicts on an ongoing basis than in busting two or three pushers a week for a couple of months, which is probably all it would take.

    I think the locals have done about as much as they can; they’ve had some successes, but they’ve probably reached the limit of what they can do without help.

    August 25, 2008
  33. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for the alert on the OD death this past weekend, David… I did hear this from someone else via email. Yikes.

    August 25, 2008
  34. Patrick Enders said:


    There’s obviously more profit in “treating” 200 addicts on an ongoing basis than in busting two or three pushers a week for a couple of months, which is probably all it would take.

    I think that is deeply inappropriate.

    August 25, 2008
  35. Scott Oney said:

    Patrick (#34): Well, thanks. At least you didn’t say inaccurate, so I’m happy to give you the “inappropriate” part.

    But could you offer a back-of-the-envelope estimate? It would help to clarify the issue.

    August 25, 2008
  36. Patrick Enders said:

    Perhaps I can clarify: Your statement was inaccurate, as well as inappropriate.

    August 25, 2008
  37. Scott Oney said:

    Patrick (#36): Interesting, and for all I know, true. Sources?

    August 25, 2008
  38. Patrick Enders said:

    Would you prefer “patently offensive”?

    You claim that members of this community see heroin addicts not as human beings in need of help, but rather as cash cows to be milked – not cured. Furthermore, you assert that this unnamed group of supposed blood profiteers are so protective of this non-existent cash cow that they would actively oppose efforts to get rid of heroin dealers.

    You deserve no further response.

    August 25, 2008
  39. David Henson said:

    Patrick – Scott may have pushed the borders of good taste but what is patently offensive was the armed forces intrusion into Northfield the other day, for what I am still unclear – yet no public federal involvement is deemed necessary after multiple local ODs. I would hope the local police would welcome the support if available.

    August 26, 2008
  40. Charlene Hamblin said:

    The death of this young woman is very sad; such a short life. I did not know her well, though always enjoyed seeing her at Ragstock.

    August 26, 2008
  41. Scott Oney said:

    Patrick (#40): Thanks for your summary of my opinion. You pretty much got it, except that I wouldn’t tend to put things that harshly. And I don’t know how you could tell if it was deliberate or not on the part of the providers; it could just be the invisible hand of the market, or, to put it in more modern terms, the case of a complex self-regulating system working to maximize throughputs (which may not be such a modern idea anymore either; it seemed new and exciting when I first heard about it, though). And the reason for them being an “unnamed group” in my posting is that, first, I wasn’t trying to single anybody out, and second, I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. But they’re not exactly off hiding under a bushel either; you can find them in the yellow pages, and speaking at meetings, and so forth. And it’s such a small town that I guess everybody knows who I’m talking about, so sorry about that.

    The PCN, or the HCI, or some such group, had a catchphrase a couple of years ago that was “Be a parent, not a pal” or something to that effect. I think what they meant by it was “Be tough on your kid,” but I took it to heart in a different way. If I have to pick between getting in good with the local movers and shakers and sticking up for the kids, I’ll pick the kids every time, and if I see something that looks wrong, I’m going to say it, even if it’s “patently offensive.”

    August 26, 2008
  42. Scott Oney said:

    David (#41): By “armed forces intrusion,” do you by any chance mean the police activity on Division Street last Saturday, 8/23, between roughly 8 and 10 a.m.? I’m still trying to figure out what was up with that. There were a couple of blocks closed off for the hot rod show, and registration for the Outlaw Run was taking place in Bridge Square, so I thought at the time that the police officers were just worked up over crowd control or traffic. But there were a lot out, and they seemed more serious than i would have expected.

    August 26, 2008
  43. Curt Benson said:

    I’ve had google news alerts set for various opiate related topics looking for other “Northfieldish” outbreaks, hoping to find out what other communities have done or are trying to do to deal with their problems.

    This summer, two communities popped up. I think it would be reasonable to guess that there are others where the news just hasn’t surfaced yet. One community is Peewaukee, a suburb of Milwaukee. The other is Portage, Michigan which is near Kalamazoo. If you google “heroin, Peewaukee” , “heroin, Portage” you’ll find plenty of information.

    This last week, the Kalamazoo Newspaper did a series of articles on the opiate outbreak in Portage. Here are links to a couple of the articles:

    August 26, 2008
  44. David Henson said:

    Curt – that’s great research

    Scott – I meant the Hazmat activity by Memorial Park a few weeks ago.

    August 26, 2008
  45. Scott said:

    There’s obviously more profit in “treating” 200 addicts on an ongoing basis than in busting two or three pushers a week for a couple of months, which is probably all it would take.

    This is a gross oversimplification. Coming from a long family history of addiction, and having worked in the field, I know that busting local pushers is NOT going to stop our area addicts from getting their fix. The whole twin city metro area (and Rochester, too) is awash with suppliers, and our addicts will get what they need anywhere they can. Local police action is NOT the only useful action.

    August 26, 2008
  46. Scott Oney said:

    David (#46): Oh, I forgot that one; I thought you were just speaking figuratively. We may never find out what that was about, but from what is known, it’s a good example of a case in which the feds don’t need the permission of the locals. They were in and out in a day, and the house was occupied by people who had reportedly entered the United States as foreign nationals (although a half century ago), which could be a factor.

    August 27, 2008
  47. Scott Oney said:

    Tonyia (#47): In my post #33, which you quote, I was addressing the issue of whether or not the local police should request help from the state BCA or federal agencies. It was my suspicion that, if such an operation were undertaken, there would be resistance from the local treatment community as well as from other assorted moral entrepreneurs. From the responses posted here, not to mention e-mails I’ve received over the last couple of days, I think I underestimated the problem! Perhaps there are people in the treatment field locally who would support increased law enforcement efforts but who are afraid to speak up; I don’t know.

    On the subject of what to do for people who are already addicts, or who have other problems involving substance use, of course you’d want to make treatment available. I’m sure the local cops are all for it, and courts sometimes even order it. But that’s a separate issue. For kids whose experience with substances is limited to getting drunk on the weekends or smoking pot sometimes, even if they did decide on a whim to try heroin, I doubt it would be possible for them to drive to Minneapolis or Rochester and find some. Even if they did manage to get there without getting lost, they’d probably just get cheated out of their money and come home empty-handed. Initiating heroin use requires a high degree of encouragement and mentoring, usually from pushers who are near-peers, which really wasn’t available in Northfield until about four years ago (see link at the top of this page to “Law enforcement’s story” from the Northfield News).

    August 27, 2008
  48. Patrick Enders said:

    Don’t count me on your list of perceived enemies. I didn’t disagree with your suggestion to seek outside law enforcement assistance. I just disagreed with everything else you said.

    I suggest that you try a little sugar next time.

    August 27, 2008
  49. Another issue that goes with the drug problem in Northfield that no one is talking about is HIV/AIDS. I don’t think every heroin user used a clean needle every time, I think there was/is a lot of sharing needles going on.

    August 27, 2008
  50. William Siemers said:

    A philosophy of ‘harm reduction’ recognizes that some people will use drugs regardless of the efforts of the treatment and law enforcement communities. Needles, syringes, and all other equipment and supplies necessary for injecting drugs, along with information on how to reduce the danger of using drugs, along with treatment options, should be (anonymously) available in public health venues.

    August 28, 2008
  51. Jane Moline said:

    Scott, I think that what happened to Gary Smith when he asked for the public’s help is a lesson to local law enforcement–the last thing they want is to appear like they want the same treatment Gary Smith received.

    I think everyone would welcome stricter law enforcement–even addicts who can’t quit (although they may not appreciate it immediately.) I am just cynical enough to not believe it will work.

    I really think we should post signs that look like wanted signs in all the businesses downtown with drug dealer’s names and pictures and a statement that they are not welcome to do business in this town–get out.

    The police know them. Lets get rid of them. (And don’t give me any “innocent until proven guilty.” People either did it or didn’t, and we happen to know some of them that are doing it. Even if evidence is not enough to convict, we can refuse them in our businesses.) If we won’t post the signs, at least we can give them to every business so they know who they are.

    We could put a group together for legal defense if any of our local drug dealers want to sue us–and we could beat them in civil court–although I doubt they would take us there. A united citzenry beat the James-Younger Gang in 1876–we should be able to run a few low-life drug dealers out of Northfield.

    August 28, 2008
  52. Jane Moline said:

    I guess I am being too vigilante. I take back that we are going to run them out of townby ourselves–but we should meet regularly with the police and have them give us a report on the known drug dealers and what they are doing about them. When we know of a drug dealer we need to talk to the police and expect them to watch and follow and get in the face of those drug dealers so they cannot do their business. We need to form a group so that when we know they are around we can call our police liason and have the police show up.

    I want the police to focus on getting the drug dealers out of Northfield–not following the chain back to the main supplier–just stop them from dealing in our town.

    August 28, 2008
  53. Jerold Friedman said:

    Would you support diversionary programs in Northfield? There are documentaries, notably one from HBO, that followed several people through an intervention rather than put them through jail.

    It would take a great deal of cooperation among the courts, prosecutors, and police. Is something like this worth trying?

    August 28, 2008
  54. Patrick Enders said:

    Interesting thought. I guess the first question I would have is: are we picking up any people and putting them in jail? If yes, or there’s reason to think that we miight in the future, then that could be a great idea. If not, then we won’t have many opportunities for such an intervention.
    Still, if it could even help one person, it should be considered.

    August 28, 2008
  55. Jerold Friedman said:

    When I spoke with Police Chief Taylor, he said that Northfield’s drug problem was “average” for a city our size. I did not ask about drug-related arrests, especially for selling drugs.

    I note that Jillian Wetzel was arrested twice, once for drug paraphernalia possession (2003) and once for marijuana possession (2008).

    I am sure that it could help more than one person. “If police investigators’ suspicions are correct, Jillian will be the fifth person in northern Rice County to die of a drug overdose in a little more than a year.” (

    If I’m elected to City Council, and my constituents are in favor of it, I will work with the authorities to create a voluntary intervention program for drug users and sellers as an alternative to jail.

    August 29, 2008
  56. Jane Moline said:

    I think put the dealers in jail and do the diversionary programs for everyone else–I really don’t think putting addicts in jail helps anything but forcing withdrawal–which can be a good thing, but does not help them deal with their addiction after they get out. I really think the dealers need to be taken down.

    Chief Taylor should explain how our drug problems are “average” when we have more young people dying from drug ODs than car accidents. It is the number one killer of youth in our community. How is that “average?’

    August 29, 2008
  57. Scott Oney said:

    Jerold and Patrick: The needs you’re talking about are typically addressed at the county level. I know you guys haven’t lived here very long, so you might not be aware of what’s offered by Rice County Corrections ( You might want to talk to someone down there and find out what they’re up to before trying to reinvent the wheel in Northfield.

    Then there are the pushers, who may or may not have substance use problems themselves but who are active enough that they’re able to support themselves with the proceeds from their dealing. Their needs, typically, are met by the state prison system.

    August 29, 2008
  58. Curt Benson said:

    I was at a meeting where someone asked Chief Taylor about how Northfield’s drug problems compared to other communities. He said something to the affect that all communities have drug problems, but what seems to be different in Northfield is that heroin is the drug of choice. I think all of the Rice County heroin deaths have occurred north of county road 1 (running east/west out of Dundas.)

    Also, remember that Chief Taylor has been the chief only since last April.

    Before Taylor took over, and the Drug Task Force was reorganized into a Rice County only task force there were zero, yes zero, arrests for opiate trafficking in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Since the changes at the police department/drug task force, there have been three major arrests of dealers, according to the Northfield News.

    David Henson, you ask great questions above in your post #30.

    August 29, 2008
  59. Patrick Enders said:

    I’m very glad to hear that Chief Taylor has been making progress on the legal front.

    August 29, 2008
  60. David Henson said:

    Curt – I wrote to the FBI to point out the death toll and ask them to let people know if feds are now involved in this heroin issue ? I would encourage everyone to start writing and bringing this issue to the attention of state politicians and federal authorities. In fairness, Heroin is a smuggling issue and cannot be solved locally. But for the same reason there has to be a more centralized distribution network and with some effort one would think this could be cracked (at least the part that gets into Northfield). I think the feds need to shake a little Homeland Security funding free because if I’m doing my math right and Northfield’s level OD spread nationally the annual death toll would 83,333 people each year (AN EPIDEMIC)

    August 29, 2008
  61. Scott Oney said:

    Four years ago today, residents of Northfield and Faribault got a glimpse of what can be achieved when local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies work together:

    50 arrested in drug raids

    Two separate drug rings had been uncovered during a yearlong investigation. Besides the 50 people arrested on the first day of the sweep, something like 20 more were picked up during October 2004. So it can be done!

    September 29, 2008
  62. David Ludescher said:

    Scott: Any idea how many convictions resulted from the drug raids in Northfield?

    September 29, 2008
  63. Peter Millin said:

    There is no program or protocol available to help an addict, unless he or she wants to get better.

    Our police needs to use whatever means necessary to enforce existing law. If an addict get’s caught in a raid he/she should be given the choice to get better or go to jail.

    Recovery needs to be monitored the same way we monitor probation, if one breaks her “probation” we should put them in to jail.

    September 29, 2008
  64. Scott Oney said:

    David L. (September 29 at 3:42 p.m.): I’m thinking not very many, if any. At the time, I was concerned about low bail amounts, and I also thought that the county prosecutor, Paul Beaumaster, was likely to drop the ball. I called him in October 2004 and asked him if he would be willing to provide a list, when the whole thing was over, of how many people showed up in court and what kind of convictions he was able to get. He said he’d be glad to provide it, but not surprisingly, I’m still waiting.

    Mr. Beaumaster had appeared at a meeting at the NCRC some months before the sweep and had spoken rather forcefully about his intention to confiscate property involved in the drug trade. (He actually made the claim that he could seize, for example, a Carleton dormitory; I was skeptical of that one.) So when I called him, it was partly to encourage him to at least talk to the owners of a nuisance property at 403 Union St., which was one of the properties raided. He may well have done that.

    There are other ways to measure success besides the number of convictions, though. Some of the people caught up in the sweep were given the opportunity to return home instead of going to court (i.e., they were deported), so if they turn up in the United States again, it’s a felony. That gives at least some level of protection for the future.

    One local storefront foreign remittance service folded in the wake of the sweep. It’s failure was publicly blamed on road construction, but from the timing it looked as if at least part of the drop in their business was a result of a drop in drug revenue due to the arrests.

    And, to end on a positive note, the apartment building at 403 Union St. is still looking much better than it did in 2004.

    September 29, 2008
  65. Patrick Enders said:

    A couple updates on the heroin front:

    Dr. Kristine Matson had a guest column this last weekend in the Northfield News, titled “Buprenorphine brings new hope for addicts,” which discusses that treatment option available in Northfield to help patients with their addiction to narcotics:

    Suzanne Rook, Jaci Smith, and David Henke won the annual Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists First Place ‘Page One’ Award for the Best In-depth Newspaper News and Feature in a paper with less than 50,000 circulation, for their article “Heroin: One Year Later.”

    May 18, 2009
  66. john george said:

    Griff- I think the Rice Co. Sherrif’s comments are interesting. He said there were only 15-20 known users in Northfield. This is about 6-8% of what the police chief’s report stated. With these types of disparencies in figures being reported, is it any wonder that people don’t know what to believe?

    September 2, 2009
  67. Jane Moline said:

    Shees John–do we have to do this again? I know at least 2 dozen drug users in the Northfield Area–since a dozen are dead do you really think there are only a dozen more? Please call Dick Cook. I think he can explain the number–because it does not jive with the experts estimates. Maybe he is just counting those they are arresting.

    But I will repeat myself. Experts claim users that you can extrapolate the users from the number seeking help–through drug treatment or detox–and that that number will be 10%. So based on the 25 seeking treatment during Chief SMITH’s term, the experts told him they expected about 250 users.

    September 2, 2009
  68. john george said:

    Jane- I feel the same frustration you are expressing. I was only pointing out that two different law enforcement people are giving two entirely different estimates on heroin users, not drug users in general. Until someone publishes some confirmed statistics, then I think the general public is still going to be confused about what is really going on. Extrapolated estimates are not really statistics, IMO, if such can be had. Involved treatment providers can be more accurate than Joe Blow on the street, but these are still not confirmed statistics.

    September 2, 2009
  69. Scott Oney said:

    Jane: Apparently not all experts agree. Which ones are you citing here? And I wonder if Sheriff Cook is referring to the number of “dependent users,” whereas you’re thinking of the “used at least once” population. In that case, you’re probably both right.

    September 3, 2009
  70. Peter Millin said:

    I think legalizing pot would go a long way in helping the drug problems we have.

    September 10, 2009
  71. john george said:

    Peter- I think there is a fear that the whole country would go to “pot” if we leagalized it.

    September 10, 2009
  72. Peter Millin said:

    John…. LOL

    Did you read the article in the Northfield News on athletes and drugs?

    I wonder if Kevin Dahle has read it and he can reconciliate the schools stand with his own position.

    September 11, 2009
  73. john george said:

    Peter- I haven’t read the article yet. I get the NN second hand, a couple days late, so I will definitely look for the article. In which issue was it?

    Also, glad you enjoyed the little pun. I like to inject some humor (if you can call it that) anywhere I can. Seems there is so much heavy stuff out there.

    September 11, 2009
  74. Peter Millin said:

    It was the cover story in the last Wednesday edition. It was a great article on the dangers of performance altering drugs.
    It also went in to the impact of alcohol and other drugs on athletic performance.

    September 12, 2009
  75. john george said:

    Peter- Thanks. I found it in the edition Karen brought home yesterday. It is a good article. I thought the statement in the last paragraph was very realistic.

    September 12, 2009

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