For the past 23 years, just as the season’s Anoka Halloween celebrations are kicking off, the Anoka Anti Crime Commission gathers at Green Haven for its annual fundraising breakfast.
Statistics from the past year’s police department activity are shared by Chief Phil Johanson and guests are asked to contribute financially to support the efforts of the commission, which include crime prevention though community programming and supporting the Anoka Police Department.
But something was notably missing this year.
Les Clemmons, who served as chairperson for the commission for 17 years, died in September.
The commission honored her work Tuesday morning with the presentation of a plaque to Clemmons’ daughter, Beth Clemmons, in honor of her longtime commitment to the organization.
Prosecutor Mike Scott, who serves as the vice chairperson of the commission, said Clemmons cared deeply about Anoka and its citizens.
Her daughter agreed. “My mom was passionate about the community… and the police department,” Beth Clemmons said.
Commission member Pete Beberg said Les Clemmons fueled her passion to build a better community with her positive approach and worked to bring the community together to solve problems.
Anoka City Councilmember Steve Schmidt said some might wonder why a relatively small community would require an anti-crime commission.
But with 14,000 jobs, 10 schools, a college and a treatment center there is much more to Anoka than its permanent residents.
“Although we’re 17,000 people, we probably have the police needs of a community several times that,” Schmidt said.
In most areas, there was a reduction of crime in Anoka for 2012, according to statistics presented by Johanson.
In 2012, the Anoka Police Department responded to 17,791 911 calls, in addition to other officer-generated calls.
Breaking it down, Johanson said this equates to 50 911 calls a day, or 17 on each of the three shifts.
In 2012 there were no homicides in Anoka.
After a three-year run of no traffic fatalities, two people were killed in accidents in Anoka last year, including a pedestrian struck while running across Highway 10 as well as a driver hit while negotiating a U-turn at Bunker Lake Boulevard and 38th Avenue.
The one crime statistic that did rise significantly was the number of criminal sexual conduct arrests up to 21 in 2012 from eight the previous year.
After looking closely at the cases, Johanson said there is not a serial attacker in Anoka.
But these were cases of the delayed reporting of an incident that took place, often with the victim knowing the assailant.
Drug abuse and crime
Johanson shared information about the influence drug addiction has on crime rates.
He said he agrees with the sentiment that substance abuse today is the largest contributor to crime in the United States.
“They are committing a crime to get what they need,” Johanson said. Often they are stealing money or items to pay for prescription drugs or heroin.
“They are even committing crimes against their own families,” Johanson said. “That tells us the power of substance abuse and addiction.”
Special Agent Dan Moren of the Drug Enforcement Agency, who was guest speaker at the breakfast, talked specifically about trends in drug abuse and trafficking.
Moren was also the guest speaker at the 2009 Anoka Anti-Crime Commission breakfast.
Tuesday Moren talked about the dangers how widespread prescription drug abuse has led to an increase in heroin use and addiction.
“There are more people dying from prescription drug overdoses than from methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin combined,” Moren said.
He said while the United States has only 4 percent of the world’s population, it accounts for 40 percent of the prescription drug use.
According to Moren, 55 percent of people surveyed were abusing drugs from their own medicine cabinet, or a medicine cabinets of family and friends.
“That prescription drug bustle sitting in your medicine cabinet can range from $200 to $4,000 on the street, depending on which drug we are talking about,” Moren said.
Cough syrup with codeine goes from a $10 insurance copay to a $600 commodity on the street, according to Moren.
Gangs and dealers will go so far as to visit homes for sale, posting as potential buyers, in order to be able to raid the medicine cabinets of unsuspecting owners.
Oxycontin, percocet and vicodin, along with xanax and adderall, are all prescription drugs sold on the street and abused.
“An oxycontin tablet that makes it to the street may as well be heroin for an addict,” Moren said.
Three to five people die in Minnesota every day because of prescription drug abuse, according to Moren. And when their supply of prescription drugs run out, many addicts move on to heroin.
And heroin is where the drug cartels make their money, Moren said.
Currently, a high quality but low priced form of white powder heroin is popular. The drug can be smoked or ingested by snorting, “taking away the stigma of needle use,” Moren said.
He urged people to take advantage of the twice annual “take back” days where people can turn in their prescription drugs anonymously and they will be destroyed safely.
“It rids our streets of one of the biggest sources of drug abuse that migrates to heroin abuse,” Moren said.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]