MUNCIE – After three years of dramatic increases, statistics show the number of meth labs discovered in Delaware County dropped significantly in 2016.
Local police agencies aren’t in a celebratory mood about that, however.
While the number of local meth labs reflected in Indiana State Police statistics decreased from 234 in 2015 to 145 last year, Delaware County’s 2016 total still led the state by a large margin, providing almost 15 percent of Indiana’s total 983 labs.
Authorities have long credited the aggressive pursuit of meth producers and abusers by Muncie police, Delaware County deputies and a regional Indiana State Police meth eradication team with resulting in the county’s high meth-related rankings.
Sheriff Ray Dudley said that level of enforcement likely did play a role in a decline in local labs, but he and other officials acknowledge the statistics also reflect a redirection in the focus, both of police agencies and drug abusers, to heroin.
Delaware County Prosecutor Jeffrey Arnold suggested many local drug users have shifted to “death now” — in the form of heroin overdoses — from the “slow suicide” resulting from meth abuse.
“We’re just trying to keep our head above water,” said Muncie Police Chief Joe Winkle, noting he believes some local substance abusers are now alternating ingestion of meth and heroin.