2013-03-07 / Front Page

UPSET: Drugs expanding in area

Local presentation reveals more drugs appearing, offers tips

MANISTIQUE – The drug problem in the Upper Peninsula continues to expand and include new, more harmful drugs, according to a law enforcement officer with the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team. An UPSET presentation was recently given to the students of Manistique Middle/High School, as well as member of the community.

Det. Lt. Tim Sholander with UPSET held the presentation last week, focusing on up and coming drugs in the U.P., as well as continuing problems in the area. UPSET, which is managed by the Michigan State Police, includes officers from Marquette Public Safety, the Marquette County Sheriff’s Department, Delta County Sheriff’s Department, Escanaba and Menominee Public Safety. An UPSET board oversees the financial aspects of the team.

According to Sholander, UPSET also includes the assistance of some federal agencies, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We’re pretty fortunate up here to have all these agencies working together,” he said. “There’s not a lot of other agencies in the entire state or the entire country that actually have all these agencies actually come together like this.”

UPSET currently covers 12 of the 15 counties in the U.P., explained Sholander. The three not covered are Luce, Chippewa and Mackinac counties, which have their own narcotics team.

“We cover a larger area than any other drug team east of the Mississippi,” he said.

According to Sholander, UPSET regularly encounters a variety of drugs – from cocaine to methamphetamine, to bath salts and heroin. Medical and synthetic marihuana are also commonplace in the U.P., he added. The appearance of crack and powder cocaine, along with heroin, is becoming more and more frequent.

“We got drug dealers that are actually coming from up from Milwaukee, Chicago and Detroit,” he said. “Believe it or not, we see large quantities of crack and powder cocaine up here.”

One drug that has become increasing popular in the U.P. is meth, Sholander explained, and more meth “labs” are being discovered throughout the area. In fact, he noted 42 had been cleaned up by UPSET over the past year – 36 of which were in Marquette.

“There’s a lot more meth labs out there, people just don’t know what they are,” he said.

Meth labs will usually consist of a two-liter or 20 oz. bottle with the chemicals in it, Sholander explained. These are used by “cookers”, or the people making the meth, and are extremely volatile.

“Half the time the actual ‘cookers’ use this, it explodes,” he said. “That’s why we have so many fires going on up in Marquette, because these guys are actually blowing themselves up or burning themselves.”

According to Sholander, people making meth acquire all of the ingredients, such as batteries and drain cleaner, from area stores. He advises residents to stay away from any suspected meth lab, and to contact authorities immediately.

In the Schoolcraft County area, Sholander explained the predominant problem remains prescription drugs. Most of the time, he added, people move on from marihuana to prescription pills.

“We have a huge prescription drug problem both here (Schoolcraft County) and in Delta County,” he said. “They end up using these pills and abusing them by taking too many.”

After a while, prescription drug abusers will look for a quicker high and snort or shoot up the pills, Sholander said. This usually, in turn, leads to the abuser moving on to the “next level of drug”, such as heroin.

Since prescription pills are expensive, Sholander said there has been a notable increase in breaking and entering, as well as assault cases in the area. He encouraged residents to be sure to drop off any unwanted prescription pills at a designated disposal site.

UPSET, which receives a grant to cover officers’ salaries and funding from the DEA to cover meth lab clean-up, is running under a limited budget, Sholander said.

“We don’t have a lot of funding sources,” he said. “Manistique does give us $1,500 every year, and I think Schoolcraft County matches that. There’s a lot of townships, even in Schoolcraft County, that don’t fund us,” he said.

The team looks to increase drug the awareness, enforcement, investigate drug crimes, and create initiatives in the public, Sholander said. To do this, more funding is needed.

“We’re limited on resources with a lot of area to cover,” he said.

He also noted that crimes and suspected drug activity cannot be investigated if UPSET does not know about it.

“I don’t know about it until you call us,” he said.

To supply a tip to UPSET, call 906-346-9289.

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