Police fear growing violence as heroin users switch to meth

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Brown County Drug Task Force seized nearly three times the amount of meth off the street in 2018 compared to the year before. So why are investigators concerned it's leading to more crimes -- violent crimes -- driven by drug addiction?

"It's very common to see drugs and guns," Lt. Kevin Kinnard of the drug task force said.

That combination is what concerns investigators as they see an increase not only in meth use but crimes sparked by addicts needing money to feed their addiction.

"There's a huge increase. We continue to see meth -- it continues to be *the biggest problem as far as drug crimes and then residual drug crimes, be it armed robberies, burglaries, thefts," Kinnard said.

Take a 36-hour span just last week in Green Bay as an example.

Police just put up billboards looking for help finding Joshua Thomas, a 29-year-old man they say shot another man on the west side last Monday. The victim wasn't seriously wounded and walked to a gas station for help.

The same day, police were called to what would become a series of armed robberies -- three in one night. Prosecutors have charged Jacob Pate, who police say held up gas stations looking for money.

Police believe all of these cases have a common thread: Meth.

"Very dangerous for the victim obviously, but the suspects are pretty much willing to do anything to fund their drug habit," Green Bay Police Lt. Ben Allen said.

Police say weapons were involved in all those crimes last week.

As with many drugs, there is that threat of violence but authorities say it increases even more with meth -- a stimulant that can cause erratic behavior.

"Meth and the need to get meth really clouds judgment of people," Allen said.

But why so much meth now?

We've reported on what investigators have called an odd trend of users suddenly switching from heroin -- a depressant -- to meth -- a stimulant with a completely different kind of high.

Investigators say it's not driven by money. They now understand heroin users are afraid of accidentally overdosing on the more potent fentanyl, which might be mixed with heroin, or are actually trying to withdraw from opioids but don't know how and turning to meth.

Regardless of the reason, investigators want the community to be aware.

"The lengths people are going to to attain money in order to feed their drug habit is pretty scary," Allen said.