Following the recent seizure of about five pounds of fentanyl and the ongoing problem of local overdoses, drugs in Onslow County continue to be a major concern.
Onslow County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Colonel Chris Thomas said fentanyl results in the overwhelming majority of overdoses in Onslow County, adding the problem is rarely heroin anymore. Last week, Thomas said the county had three overdoses but was able to revive all three of them with Narcan.
One of the biggest current problems, Thomas added, is that fentanyl is now being pressed into pill form as a way of concealment.
He said the local drug enforcement unit even seized a pill press in Jacksonville a few months ago that was being used for that very reason. Thankfully, Thomas said, the county has not yet seen fentanyl in the form of candy, a growing problem throughout the nation.
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So, which parts of Onslow County have the worst drug problems? Well ― the problem seems to lie mostly in Jacksonville and Sneads Ferry.
According to the Jacksonville Police Department, 789 people were arrested for drug-related offenses in 2021. This year, officers have already seen 545 drug-related offenses. In addition, the department said 162 people overdosed on drugs in 2021 and 133 so far in 2022 with two months left.
As for Sneads Ferry, Thomas said there were 48 drug investigations in 2021 which yielded over 75 felony charges. Thus far in 2022, 20 drug investigations have led to upwards of 42 felony charges.
“There have been more overdoses and deaths in Sneads Ferry than any other municipality in the county,” Thomas said. “That is excluding the city of Jacksonville. Fentanyl seems to be more prevalent in some of our rural areas, the higher-density population areas.”
Thomas said Onslow County EMS deployed Narcan 160 times so far this year. At that point, there had already been 38 deaths. Thomas added Onslow County deputies have also deployed Narcan over 72 times in 2022 as of Oct. 15.
Well, according to Thomas, there are several factors, but the geographic location is a big one.
“Quite frankly, geographic location sometimes to a large area,” Thomas said. “Like, Sneads Ferry’s relatively close to Wilmington and we have a significant problem there and it’s a significant supply chain situation there so that drives it as well,” Thomas said. “Sometimes it will run in, basically, groups. You have a group of people who hang together and end up doing the same thing and sometimes it spreads in that fashion as well.”
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Although not as severe, Richlands, Hubert and Swansboro have their own issues with drugs as well.
In 2021, Thomas said there were 15 drug investigations in Richlands resulting in 21 misdemeanors and nine felony charges. In 2022, there have been 13 investigations resulting in seven misdemeanors and six felony charges. However, these are only the investigations led by the OCSO Drug Enforcement Unit, Thomas added.
This doesn’t include the number of simple possession arrests made by the Richlands Police Department.
However, Richlands Chief of Police William Horne said the town limits have very few reported drug incidents, with most interactions being from traffic stops of subjects passing through town.
“The overall trend in Richlands appears to be consistent within the past few years,” Thomas said. “The drug-related arrests in Richlands appear to be lower than all the other areas of Onslow County except for Swansboro. The drug trend in Richlands regarding types of illegal drugs is consistent with all other areas of Onslow County with most all overdoses being caused by fentanyl.”
As for Swansboro, Chief Dwayne Taylor said 2021 saw 21 misdemeanor charges and six felonies, with 2022 seeing 11 misdemeanors and six felonies as of Oct. 25. As for overdoses, Swansboro saw 18 in 2021 with one fatality and eight overdoses with zero fatalities in 2022 as of Oct. 25.
Hubert’s numbers are similar as there were roughly 20 drug investigations in 2021, all of which resulted in felony charges along with some misdemeanors,
Hubert’s numbers are similar as there were roughly 20 drug investigations in 2021, all of which resulted in felony charges along with some misdemeanors, according to Thomas. To date, there have been 12 in 2022, all of which resulted in felony and misdemeanor charges.
The Daily News did request data from the Holly Ridge Police Department but did not receive it in time for deadline.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein visited Onslow County last week to discuss the funds the county will receive from the $26 billion national settlement Stein helped secure from three drug distributors and Johnson & Johnson.
Onslow County and the city of Jacksonville have already been sent the first two payments from the agreement and will receive more than $11 million in total.
Funds will go toward addressing the opioid epidemic in communities across North Carolina.
Reporter Morgan Starling can be reached at email@example.com.