Small Town Fighting Big Drug Abuse Issues

GENTRY, AR--Arkansas tops the list of states with the most prescription drug abuse. After hearing that, you may be wondering what law enforcement agencies are doing to change it.

One small town is working to put a stop to prescription painkiller abuse. Officers say with a small staff it's a tough task, but they're tightening up on drugs hitting their city streets.

"This is your every day housewife. Mom and dad. Business people," said Police Chief Keith Smith.

It's a small farm town, seeing a large problem, in prescription drugs.

"When I came in to Arkansas 19 years ago, we saw very few reports like this," said Smith. "As soon as 5 years ago we were probably seeing 20 and 25 reports a year."

Now, a different kind of farming is taking place in this town. Pill farmers and drug abusers reporting prescription drugs like oxycodone, vicoden and hydrocodone as stolen to local police officers.

"It used to be pretty much standard policy that most police departments would just issue theft reports just like they would for any other case."

But now, this police chief is saying one key piece of evidence is missing.

"Many times those people that come in, those frequent fliers, they don't have a suspect. They don't know who or how the drugs were attained or accessed and stolen. That becomes a red flag very quickly."

With lack of proof, and no cooperation with police, "frequent fliers " or repeat offenders won't get far in this town.

"Because of the problem with the prescription drug abuse what I decided to do was give one report a year unless a person is legitimately claiming a loss."

While true claims aren't rare, often times the person reporting the stolen drugs may know the offender.

"Many times though, what we're seeing is close friends and family are in fact the ones who took the drugs from these people when their is a legitimate theft," said Smith. "As long as I'm the chief of police, we're not going to assist you in abusing your drugs or making them available for sale on the streets."

Smith mentioned he'd love to see a databse for doctors and pharmacies, alerting them of drug offenders. As for Gentry, Smith said they've only seen a handful of cases involving prescription drug abuse in the past year.

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