PIERRE, S.D.—One out of every five juvenile arrests last year in South Dakota was related to drugs, putting a somber outlook on a problem at the forefront of the state's law enforcement.
There were 1,056 juvenile arrests for drugs, narcotics or drug paraphernalia last year in the state, according to the new Attorney General's Crime in South Dakota report released Wednesday.
That's quite the jump from 2008 when there were 573 juvenile arrests for the same violations.
" ... the national drug epidemic continues to impact overall crime in South Dakota, with drug offense alone increasing 7.2 percent in 2017," said Attorney General Marty Jackley.
The annual crime report shows drug arrests jumped in South Dakota for a third consecutive year, tallying a 10-year high of 8,224 arrests last year.
And while the majority of those arrests are adults between the ages of 18 to 39, Mitchell Chief of Public Safety Lyndon Overweg said it's concerning that more drug experimentation is occurring with juveniles.
"I think we have to continue on with education on all levels, not only law enforcement but schools and families, churches, anything like that," Overweg said Wednesday. "It has to be a common message of not to try it even for the first time."
Overweg suspects the majority of juveniles arrested were related to marijuana. Most of the drug arrests were in the state's biggest cities with 297 juvenile drug arrests in Sioux Falls and 229 in Rapid City.
The report shows South Dakota drug arrests have increased nearly 50 percent in the past five years.
"We have to stay proactive. We can't give up hope," Overweg said.
The report also shows the total number of arrests in South Dakota increased for a seventh straight year and is a 10-year high at 44,265 arrests. Jackley stated city, county and state agencies have added nearly 300 more certified officers since 2007, "which has also resulted in more arrests to keep our neighborhoods and cities safe."
The statewide crime report also showed there were 70 robbery arrests last year, 393 burglary arrests, 274 motor vehicle arrests and 6,671 driving under the influence arrests.