Drug arrests, overdoses and stealing reports increased in 2017 in St. Clair. Domestic assaults and motor vehicle accident reports were down.

Drug arrests increased from 174 in 2016 to a new record of 236 in 2017, according to Police Chief Bill Hammack. Last year was “by far the highest” number he said.

“We have seen an increase in heroin use. Methamphetamine use has been pretty stable; it’s been pretty consistent over the years,” Hammack said.

“We have a group of officers who’ve really been aggressive going after these drug offenders and they’ve done a really good job.

“It’s been proactive policing that’s caused those numbers to be where they’re at.”

Drug overdoses increased to 25 in 2017 with four fatalities. One fatality toxicology report has not been delivered to the police department yet, but Hammack said there is a suspicion of heroin overdose or fentanyl.

There was only one reported methamphetamine lab, which was found in a vehicle.

“We don’t see as many meth labs as we used to. The (pseudoephedrine) federal laws that were passed make it a lot harder to manufacture methamphetamine,” Hammack said.

“The vast majority of methamphetamine that we are seizing from the people we arrest is crystal meth that has been shipped across the border from Mexico.”

Stealing reports increased slightly to 341. There were two robbery reports, 32 stolen vehicles and 59 burglaries.

“The criteria that must be met for a burglary is the unlawful entry into a structure with intent to commit a crime,” Hammack said.

“We had a couple of cases where individuals forced their way into a home, had an altercation with someone they knew, assaulted them and we applied for burglary charges.”

He added that many burglaries last year were of prescription medications.

“The perpetrators were individuals that actually were associates of people who resided in those homes,” Hammack said.

The number of reported domestic assaults, physical and verbal, decreased to 256. “I consider that a high number for our population, but we were in the 300s (in 2016) and the year before,” Hammack said.

The criteria for a domestic assault is if family members or two people who live together make a threat against one another, according to Hammack.

Motor vehicle accidents decreased to 240 last year as compared to prior years when totals were in the 300s.

Resisting arrest increased to 34 last year. Hammack said many who resisted arrest fled on foot who were fugitives or they had drugs in their possession and fled.

One terrorist threat was made and that was by the former St. Clair High School student reported in November.

To be considered a terrorist threat someone has to commit an act that puts at least 10 people in apprehension, Hammack said.

Additional Comments

Overall, 2017 was “a pretty typical year as far as our workload,” Hammack said.

“We have a good group of officers, good support staff. When you have good employees working with you and for you, it makes your job easier.”

For 2018, he said he hopes to remain at full staff. In the past year and a half, the department has had to fill seven vacancies due to retirement, leaving for another position and death.

“When you’re at full staff with good, dedicated officers, you can provide service to the community,” Hammack said.