Meth in common

Can the public health focus of the Sacramento County Methamphetamine Coalition dovetail with low-hanging probation violation busts?

Sacramento County’s new Methamphetamine Coalition has its work cut out if recent Sheriff’s Department arrests are any indication.

Three men are currently behind bars and ineligible for bail due to charges that include possession of methamphetamine, sometimes in small quantities. In each case, the fact that the men were on probation allowed sheriff’s deputies to stop and search them, though two of the arrested individuals didn’t give up the contraband easily.

On Sept. 15, a deputy trained his gun on Dontae Jerome Dixon during a call at a house on Marconi Avenue in Carmichael, according to a summary of the incident. Dixon, who acknowledged he was on probation, allegedly refused to remove his hands from his pockets before the deputy drew his sidearm. Dixon showed his hands then ran, discarding an object from his left pocket into a bush as he fled. The deputy, shouting at Dixon to stop, caught up and detained the 29-year-old Sacramento man. A plastic bottle containing a substance that tested positive as methamphetamine was recovered from the bush.

The amount was small, enough only to book Dixon for personal possession, as well as resisting arrest. But because he was on probation for a felony assault conviction incurred the previous month, he was denied bail. Dixon, who has multiple vandalism convictions dating back to 2006 and pleaded no contest to felony sexual battery last year, was arraigned on Sept. 17.

Authorities were already watching a 28-year-old Carmichael man with active arrest warrants before the car he entered made an illegal U-turn near Orange Grove Avenue and College Oak Drive on Sept. 16, a sheriff’s summary states. Once the car was stopped, Fernando Marcelo Carranza was detained without incident and found to be holding more than $1,500 in cash.

Deputies then conducted a probation search of a room that Carranza occupied in Carmichael, where they allegedly found a young woman with heroin and a pipe. The woman, a 24-year-old Citrus Heights resident, was cited and released.

Authorities say they also seized multiple bags containing small amounts of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as scales and a credit card belonging to someone else. Carranza was booked at the jail, where a strip search “yielded heroin hidden in his buttocks,” the sheriff’s summary states. Carranza faces felony drug charges that include one count of smuggling narcotics into a jail.

Andrey Klimov, 32, of North Highlands is also being held without bail after deputies found him in the passenger seat of a car blocking a fire hydrant and learned he was on probation. That allowed deputies to search the vehicle, where a backpack allegedly held small amounts of heroin, meth and marijuana.

In recent years, methamphetamine has become cheaper—and deadlier. A pound of crystal dropped from as much as $15,000 a decade ago to about $2,000 today, according to the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force. That may be why federal border agents are seizing more meth than cocaine at ports of entry for the first time in six years. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it stopped more than 2.5 million pounds of meth from entering the country during the 2018 federal fiscal year.

Falling prices have coincided with a rise in California of meth-related deaths, which climbed nearly 240% in eight years, contributing to the fatal poisoning of 1,909 people in 2017, state public health data shows.

The local Methamphetamine Coalition has said it is approaching the problem as a public health crisis affecting the most vulnerable. Of the 132 homeless deaths in Sacramento County last year, methamphetamine played a role in nearly 26% of them, the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness determined.