With a growth in population, problems at the border, and addiction in the United States running rampant, it's no surprise that Fort Stockton is seeing its share of methamphetamine traffic and abuse.
Fort Stockton has two narcotics agents, one of them works directly with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and the other works with the 83rd District Attorney Sandy Wilson.
The Fort Stockton Police Department also has a working relationship with the Texas Department of Public Safety to catch narcotics offenders, the only place in Texas that has this kind of setup.
Being a small police department on a major highway with limited resources, the partnership is necessary to cover all the ground, the officers said.
The DPS officer and FSPD narcotics officer will not be named in this story to protect their identities.
The narcotics officer works to find the people selling the drugs and where they are coming from, but people who use meth are also getting caught.
“Fort Stockton has always been a hub from stuff south of the border,” said the officer. “The ultimate goal is to go as high as we can on the food chain.”
Both officers said that with the oil boom bringing in more people the supply and demand is going up.
Building cases can take weeks or months, but officers are actively working on the cases daily.
The Pecos County Sheriffs Office said so far in 2019 they have had 60 drug related arrests while the Fort Stockton Police Department has had 57 drug arrests this year.
The narcotics officer said that when they first started they were seeing people who did cocaine on the weekends casually, but since 2012 they are seeing meth all hours of the day.
Officers are also seeing the meth trend in Iraan and Imperial, a problem they say is spreading around West Texas.
“Meth is everywhere,” they said.
One of the bigger problems that meth drives an increase in crime, especially with the theft of cars and weapons, as users try to fund their addiction.
Coming from Mexico
The DPS officer said that they are seeing larger amounts of meth come through the area, especially in Fort Stockton since it is a middle ground to other nearby places.
“The meth we are seeing is all from Mexico,” they said.
The officer said that in 2011, catching someone with seven grams of meth was a lot, and now they are seeing that amount daily.
The officer said that a lot of the meth is coming from over the border because in the United States, a person caught with the ingredients to make meth may be sent to prison for 20 years – smuggling the finished product can be less risky.
It is illegal in Texas to possess any usable amount of meth.
“Any amount of meth is illegal in Texas,” said Wilson.
Even having a trace amount will land you a felony.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is overloaded with people charged with meth possession. Wilson said her office tries to get the offenders in a drug rehab and probation.
“They are letting these guys out as soon as I get them in,” she said.
Her counterpart, 112th District Attorney Laurie English, said her office tries to get addicts into treatment, while fully prosecuting those who are accused of distribution or large volume possession.
Getting the offenders on probation is helpful because the state can keep a close watch on them and if they break their probation Wilson can sentence them harsher, she said.
“I try to get my lower dose guys on probation to get them some help,” Wilson said.
Wilson is also seeing the trend of meth spawning other crimes such as family violence and criminal mischief.
“Once they get on this they get totally out of control,” she said. “Theres a bigger problem out there than people think.”
The cycle of use continues because it is so prevalent in the area, even in the other places that Wilson serves: Brewster County, Marfa and Presidio.
“Meth is just so easy to get and its so addicting,” she said.
With her small team, Wilson said it is tough because they don't have a lot of funding to fight these problems, but they are continuing to see an increase in such crimes.
“It's an ongoing and ever growing problem,” said Wilson.
There are no other services available for drug users in Fort Stockton besides PermiaCare, and even if accepted, addicts are often referred elsewhere.
“There's the problem – there are no resources here,” said PermiaCare Team Leader Dawn Fay.
PermiaCare sends people who need help with their drug addiction to Turning Point in Odessa, which only houses 42 clients.
Most drug rehab facilities require health insurance, but Turning Point is state funded, making it easier for addicts to get the care they need.
The waiting list for state-funded rehab facilities is long because the care is at no cost and the waiting period may be too long and cause someone to end up back on drugs, said Fay
Fay estimates that around 50 percent of the people she sees have drug problems and those with mental health issues may also come in with drug addiction.
Fay said that because methamphetamine alters the chemicals in the brain some people see effects like paranoia or seeing things months after getting clean.
Fay said that not enough research has been done on the long-term affects of meth use but the problem is huge.
With the growing population related to the oil field, Fay said she has seen an increase in recent years.
“West Texas needs resources,” she said. “It's everywhere. It is huge out here.”
One of the problems she frequently sees is parents calling her to ask how to help their adult children.
“The adult has to want to get help,” she said. “Its very frustrating.”
Across the spectrum
Fay said that methamphetamine affects all races, ages and financial situations.
“Nobody wakes up in the morning and wants to be an addict,” she said. “It is destroying a lot of lives.”
When people are sentenced to drug rehabilitation in Fort Stockton they are normally sent elsewhere, like Odessa, Monahans or Midland.
The one thing held in town is a twice-weekly Alcoholics Anonymous class, which is run by three volunteers.
The class is 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays in the back of the Small Community Hall at Rooney Memorial Park, 201 South Spring Drive, and 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays at the probation building, 111 West Gallagher.
For information on either group call (432) 290-0898 or (432) 336-8562.
For those needing Narcotics Anonymous, most usually just join in with the AA since there are no other options locally, said the probation department.
Turning Point offers several options for those either mandated to go through drug rehab or those who want to live the sober lifestyle.
They offer a four- to 10-day detoxification period that is medically supervised and coupled with education.
They also offer a 30- to 35-day intensive residential substance abuse treatment program that helps people maintain a lifestyle free of chemical dependency.
Afterwards they have a referral to outpatient treatment or sober living environments as part of the discharge plan and continued care.
They also offer individual, group and family counseling, 12-step process of recovery guidance and support groups.
For more information or to get help call (432) 580-2654.