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Troubling trend

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Owenton police chief says number of drug arrests has almost doubled in less than a year

By Molly Haines

After a decline in drug-related arrests over the past three years in the city of Owenton, the 2010 rate has been steadily climbing, with 45 arrests so far.

Owenton Police Chief Terry Gentry reported the rise in drug-related arrests during the Oct. 5 Owenton City Council meeting.

Gentry said in 2007 the number of drug-related arrests peaked at 36, but by 2009 the amount had dropped to 23 arrests.

“We were really excited because the amount had been dropping ever since 2007,” Gentry said. “But now it’s going back up and there’s a lot of different factors we have to look at.”

With the economy still shaky and Owen County’s unemployment rate at 9.1 for the month of August, Gentry said some could be turning to drugs in an attempt to ease other issues in their lives.

“There’s a lot of things that tie into it,” Gentry said. “When the economy is bad, the crime rates go up.”

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the presence of heroin in the state of Kentucky is limited and is usually only found in user-amounts.

Gentry said the majority of the arrests made in Owenton come from the opiate class of drugs, which includes oxycontin, hydrocodone, percocet and heroin.

“Heroin has really made a comeback,” Gentry said. “It was a very popular drug in the 1970s and early 1980s — but then we just didn’t see much of it again up until these last few years.”

Gentry said he felt drugs are being brought in from larger cities but likely only for users themselves.

“Some are relatively new users but it’s about 50-50,” Gentry said. “We’ve arrested some older users who have been arrested for drugs previously.”

The majority of those who have been arrested are between the ages of 20 and 40, Gentry said.

“When you’ve only got a couple thousand people living in the city, 45 drug-related arrests is a lot,” Gentry said. “Pretty much everybody around knows someone who uses drugs or has used drugs.”

Gentry said the police force continues to look for answers to Owenton’s drug problem.

“We don’t have the answer,” Gentry said. “We’ve gotten a lot better in making these arrests, but if we could afford a couple more men on the force we’d be able to get a better scope of things. We’re lucky that we no longer have a rotating door on our officers. We’ve had the same group for six years, so they’re well trained and have gotten to know the people and the drug activity, and they have developed their own informants.”

Gentry said the city of Owenton is lucky to have a group of officers who care about the job they do.

“No one on the force thinks of their job as a 40-hour week, go home and rest job,” Gentry said. “Instead they go home and think of ways to do a better job. They really care about this community.”