Members of Carlsbad and Eddy County’s law enforcement community say they are now beginning to get a feel for some of the additional unintended consequences caused by the COVID-19 shutdown.
During the May 25 Carlsbad City Council Meeting, Carlsbad Police Department Assistant Chief Jamie Balencia, Captain Matt Hutchinson with the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. John Sneathen with the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force, and Joana Wells with the Carlsbad Community Anti-Drug/Gang Coalition briefed the City’s Governing Body on drug prevention efforts and youth outreach.
Three Issues were discussed:
- The drug Fentanyl is dangerously growing in popularity, and
- Members of the Law Enforcement Community and organizations such as the Coalition are still continuing to work closely together, and
- The COVID-19 shutdown curbed drug prevention outreach efforts, while the isolation also caused additional issues related to depression and alienation.
Fentanyl seizures have steadily moved up over the past few years, officers said. That, coupled with the potency of the illegal drug, has caused growing concern.
“Almost everybody knows someone who has had some issue with it,” Sneathen stated.
The good news in combating Fentanyl, Balencia said, is that local law enforcement agencies have developed a strong partnership with federal agencies. Officers are also cracking down on drug providers and pushing for tougher sentences against those dealers in instances where there is an overdose.
“If we can prove whoever sold the drug was responsible for a death, that means charges at the federal level,” Sneathen said. Federal charges means tougher prison sentence, which would serve as a deterrent.
With data still coming in, Hutchinson said officers are very concerned about what they perceive as an increase in overdoses over the past few months.
Community outreach as a part of the local drug prevention effort was heavily impaired throughout the COVID-19 shutdown.
“COVID put a damper on a lot of the awareness we’ve been able to provide as a community,” Balencia said, noting that activities such as Neighborhood Night Out and the Citizens Police Academy had to be put on hold.
Another important community effort, Teen Court, recently resumed, Wells said, and the Carlsbad Coalition has established a Parents In Action group developed by parents who want to address emerging drug trends. The hope is that the restoration of these efforts will have a positive impact.
“Currently, we are in the process of developing a youth council, which is Teens in Action,” she said. “We are accepting recommendations by adults to nominate a youth who has an interest in making a positive impact on our community through community events, mentorship/leadership development, awareness campaigns, and peer to peer presentations. Adults can make these nominations on our website at Carlsbadcoalition.com.”
Wells said upcoming survey results will provide more insight, but her organization’s greatest concern is related to mental health and substance abuse.