Craig sees more violent crime from post-pandemic domestic violence and possibly increased drug trafficking

Rainbow fentanyl was seized in Grand Junction on August 31, the first time the drug has showed up on the Western Slope in this form.
Grand Junction Police/Courtesy photo

Craig police continue to see an increase in violent crimes over last year in the aftermath of the pandemic and amidst the growing nationwide fentanyl epidemic.

On Tuesday, Oct. 11, Craig Police Chief Michael Cochran updated Craig City Council about the department’s activity in September. Now that the department is better staffed, police are able to provide more traffic coverage and participate in more community engagement activities.

Still, Cochran said the department stayed busy in September. 

“Crimes against persons have risen since last year by about 105%,” Cochran said. “Short of that, everything has a small fluctuation but nothing larger.” 

From January to September, there were 244 crimes against persons recorded compared to 119 recorded crimes against persons over the same time period in 2021.

“You always hear about increases in violent crime in big cities,” council member Chris Nichols said. “We’re seeing an 105% increase in violent crime — granted the numbers are smaller — but it’s still quite alarming.” 

According to Cochran, some of the increase was a result of conflicts from the Rainbow Family gathering over the summer, but none of those calls involved local residents. 

Cochran said the department usually gets about 40 crimes against persons per month, and most are domestic violence cases. 

“A lot of these numbers are repeat offenses,” Cochran said. “If someone has a protective order, any time they break the order, even if it’s just a text, a warrant will be issued. And you unfortunately have people who will test these orders at times.” 

Changing household dynamics over the past two years also could be contributing to the increase in domestic violence. Cochran said the full effect of the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be known for quite some time, but Craig police are seeing more cases involving people working from home and being home more often.

“We do note the increase in call volumes,” Cochran said. “Both agencies partner with Open Heart Advocates, and they are able to offer a lot of services that, in the long run, reduce domestic violence.” 

Craig Mayor Ryan Hess requested a report detailing the number of fentanyl seizures at the end of the year to see if there is any correlation.

“Because we’re seeing an increase in crime and there’s also an increase in fentanyl across the country,” Hess said. 

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid approved by the Food and Drug Administration for pain relief, but has more recently reemerged illegally. Fentanyl is reported to be 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. Mixed with other drugs, even a small amount of fentanyl can be deadly. 

In August there was a large seizure of rainbow-colored fentanyl pills in Grand Junction and Cochran said the brightly colored pills have also been found in Denver. Fentanyl is showing up in many forms including pills, powders and blocks that look similar to sidewalk chalk. 

DEA representatives said that rainbow fentanyl is being made to look like other drugs — with counterfeit prescription stamps on them — in order to appeal to teenagers and young adults, but authorities are concerned the pills could be mistaken for candy. 

“I don’t want to make you think that if you go to Walmart to buy a bag of candy, there is going to be fentanyl in it; that’s not the case,” Cochran said. “The case is that people who are bringing it are getting better at bringing it without getting caught.” 

Cochran said there has not been any rainbow-colored fentanyl found in Craig, but he is urging anyone who sees something in the streets not to pick it up and not to touch it.

More information on fentanyl

The Drug Enforcement Administration has said the amount of fentanyl that can fit on the tip of a pencil is enough to poison or kill someone. 

Over the past two years, 12 tons of fentanyl has been seized at the U.S. southern border, but still more is making its way into the country undetected. It’s been reported that fentanyl is causing 150 deaths in the U.S. per day. 

Fake prescription drugs like Percocet, Xanax, Oxycodone, and Adderall are being laced with fentanyl and sold illegally. The brightly-colored rainbow fentanyl mimics party drugs like ecstasy to appeal to people college-age or younger. 

Here are some suggestions for keeping youth safe during Halloween: 

  • Only let kids take candy from trusted neighbors, family and friends
  • Set a curfew for trick or treaters 
  • Double and triple check candy for suspiciously-wrapped or unwrapped candy 
  • Remind kids to trick or treat in groups and to check in with parent periodically

For more information visit, DEA.Gov/OnePill.

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