A rural patch of land filled with small towns and family farms tucked within the rolling hills of the Ozark Mountains, Douglas County seems an unlikely place to be at the center of America’s war on drugs.
But with the proliferation of cheap, high-potency methamphetamine flooding into the U.S. from super labs operated by Mexican cartels, local officials at this municipality in south-central Missouri say they’re seeing more dealers and users than ever before.
“We’ve always had a meth problem because we’re a rural county,” Douglas County Sheriff Chris Degase told Fox News Latino. “But now we’re not seeing the ‘shake-and-bake’ cooks anymore, the stuff we’re getting now is about as pure as it can get.”
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has arrested 69 people in the last four months for methamphetamine use and distribution. In neighboring Webster County, prosecutors recently charged five people with the murder of a cartel capo sent to the region to collect a debt.
“You’re seeing people who you would never think would be involved in the drug trade become involved in the drug trade,” Degase said. “And the same people who are using and distributing the meth are the ones who are committing other crimes.”
While local authorities are unsure what cartel – or even how many of them – are operating in the region, they say that drugs from Mexico have become the main product on the streets in the Ozarks.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel is the dominate organization bringing drugs into the region – with their heroin flooding the streets of St. Louis and their methamphetamine making its way to the hamlets of the Ozarks.
Officials at the Drug Enforcement Administration said that the incursion of Mexican cartels and their proxy groups in the U.S. is nothing new. A DEA report from 2015 found that Mexican-based cartels were operating in every state in the U.S. and have expanded from marijuana and cocaine trafficking to heroin and methamphetamine as well as taking part in human smuggling operations.