Drug arrests triple in Martin County in 5 years

Posted at 5:04 PM, Feb 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-18 06:37:21-05

Over four decades, William Hyde has seen big changes in his Stuart neighborhood, not all of them good.

"We’ve had trouble with them for years."

By “them” he means drug dealers. He was glad to hear this week that two men were arrested on drug charges at a home near his.

“I’d like to see them clean the whole place up," said Hyde.

In 2011, there were 248 drug-related arrests in Martin County.  Last year, there were 817.

“Dangerous drugs, narcotics, opioid use is skyrocketing.  And we’re doing everything we can to push back against it," said Martin County Sheriff William Snyder.

At the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, they have a new device, not much larger than a cellphone, that helps them determine what it is they’re seeing out on the streets.

An undercover detective showed us the True Narc system, a $20 thousand scanning device, that helps law enforcement instantly determine the identity of a variety of controlled substances.  While old test kits required cutting a sample, detectives don’t have to touch the drug at all.

“It can be absorbed through the skin, it can be harmful or potentially fatal.  This preserves 100% of your evidence," said the detective.

Using a laser to ID a substance, it’s also a real time-saver when something doesn’t have to be sent to the crime lab, where it could take weeks to get an answer.

The tool instantly tells the difference between substances that look similar.  One bag has Alpha PVP, better known as Flakka.  Another bag tested for confectioners sugar.

Fake, or real, whatever’s being peddled in his neighborhood, William Hyde would rather see it gone.

“I’d like the neighborhood to be restored to what it used to be," said Hyde.

The True Narc device can be updated as new synthetic compounds are found to be illegal.