Tooele faces a serious drug challenge, but it is a similar battle confronted in all communities.
Josh Curtis, an investigator with Tooele City Police, told a gathering of 60 members of the Sons of Utah Pioneers that nearly all of the illegal drugs distributed in the Tooele area originate from Salt Lake Valley.
Heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines are by far the three most popular illicit drugs in Tooele, Curtis said.
“Unfortunately, cocaine is making a big comeback,” he added.
Because of the somewhat overwhelming battle of tracking down the manufacturer and sales of heroin, cocaine, and meth, the use of marijuana is down the priority list of arrests and prosecution, the police detective said.
Curtis, a member of the Tooele Drug and Gang Task Force, said that half an ounce of meth is “a lot in Tooele.” Typically, Tooele distributors sell drugs in small amounts.
He compared that to a recent Salt Lake City arrest that he was involved with where officers confiscated six pounds of meth, $2,500 cash, and a loaded gun.
Utah’s high property theft rate ties directly to drugs. “Drugs are a form of currency and property crimes are difficult to prosecute,” Curtis said.
The Tooele investigator explained that dealing drugs in the Tooele area is usually not a lucrative business.
Although it can be discouraging for police to arrest suspects, only to see them released — sometimes within hours — the public can play a critical role in helping curb the local drug problem.
“Drugs are like weeds. They are always going to be there, but if you ignore them they will take over and may be nearly impossible to get rid of once they get out of control,” Curtis said.
He advised SUP members to keep their eyes and ears open in their neighborhoods.
Curtis said that at any given time there are only three or four officers policing Tooele streets.
Citizens can watch neighborhood homes and notice who is coming and going. Keep your eyes open for short-stay traffic and things that look suspicious, Curtis advised.
He said recording license plates often proves valuable in police investigations.
Before he became involved in law enforcement, Curtis said he considered those involved in drug crimes as bad people.
“I’ve since found out that they are usually decent people making real poor decisions,” he said.
He shared a handful of stories of local people who took responsibility for their crimes, turned their lives around, and now make a positive contribution in the community.
“The drug problem is not a law enforcement problem,” said SUP member Mike Hansen, who recently retired from his career as an officer with Utah Adult Parole and Probation. “It involves the full circle of police, medical, judicial, schools, parents, and the community.”
The Sons of the Utah Pioneers meet monthly, usually at the church located on 200 W. 200 South in Tooele.
Because of the Independence Day holiday, the next meeting is July 11, at Spears Farm, 394 W. 200 South, Tooele.