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The meth crisis sweeping the state led to more drug arrests and reports of aggravated assaults in Rapid City in 2018, according to Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris.

"Over the past several years, illegal meth use has spiraled out of control in Rapid City and South Dakota," he said.

The 1,546 people arrested for drugs last year is an increase from 1,382 in 2017, the highest total since 2012, according to workload statistics released this week. There were 379 reports of aggravated assault in 2018, up from 303 the previous year and also the highest since 2012, the violent crime statistics show. 

Jegeris said the state needs to get tougher on drug users who are repeat offenders and sometimes turn to violence. 

"The criminal justice system’s response to repeat drug users has become impotent in recent years, oftentimes lacking a deterrent effect until that repeat user commits a serious or violent crime. The increase in aggravated assaults can be directly correlated to meth in Rapid City," he said.

He said he expects to see "significant improvements" in 2019 due to new anti-meth initiatives put forth by Gov. Kristi Noem and Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who are both serving their first terms in office.

While drug arrests were up, DUI arrests declined from 1,012 in 2017 to 909 in 2018, data shows. Jegeris attributed that to enforcement efforts and more people taking advantage of the ride-sharing service Lyft instead of choosing to drink and drive.

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Reports of burglaries, robberies, thefts and motor vehicle thefts also all declined in 2018, with burglaries and thefts at their lowest level since 2012. Thefts declined significantly, from 1,973 in 2017 to 1,427 last year. 

Jegeris said the Street Crimes Unit has worked to catch theft suspects and deter crimes in high-need areas. He also pointed to the department's social media campaign,which asked “It’s 9 p.m., are your doors locked?”

The police chief also said home-video surveillance systems are becoming more affordable and prevalent in Rapid City.

Gun thefts, however, increased last year when 149 were stolen compared to 110 in 2017, said Brendyn Medina, spokesman for the police department. The department warned gun owners throughout the year to keep weapons in safe and locked areas. 

The police department also saw a significant increase in calls for service: 135,376 compared to 119,490 the year before. While officers arrested fewer people — 8,565 in 2018 compared to 8,672 in 2017 — they handed out more citations and many more warnings. The department gave 7,328 citations in 2018 compared to 6,417 the year before and 9,313 warnings compared to 5,658 in 2017.

Fewer homicides — three — were reported in 2018, compared to seven in 2017. Since 2012, the number of annual homicides has ranged from two to nine, data shows. 

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— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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