Possible drug problem in Grand Junction
By: Kensi Lingk and Zach Rosenberg
Meth, cocaine, marijuana, prescription drugs, all these have one thing in common. They are destroying communities and families one bong rip or injection at a time. Grand Junction, CO has once been named the meth capital of the world, and still is one of the highest rated cities for illegal drug usage. The investigation set forth by us has been designed to get to the root cause of drug usage in the Grand Valley. We intend to address these causes, and help prevent drug busts, and overdose in the foreseeable future.
The Grand Valley has seen more drug busts come through in the past week than many towns do in a month. Five men and one women were apprehended with large amounts of illegal drugs this past weekend. The amount of drugs was large enough to distribute. Ancieto Torres III, an Ohio State University student, was caught smuggling 55 pounds of marijuana through Grand Junction coming back from his spring break trip. Colorado law allows a person to have up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use at a time. The amount of marijuana Torres had in the vehicle enough marijuana for over 1,500 people to possess legally and illegally depending on the state’s marijuana law. In an unrelated case, Rene Raul Chicas-Sandoval was caught in possession of 12 pounds of methamphetamine that was found in the fuel tank of the car. These two attempts at smuggling drugs alone are enough to affect the small population of Grand Junction tremendously, and cause the community to be on high alert for drugs trafficking in the Grand Valley. Another case that left us intrigued was Andy Mireles and Jaquelyn Sanchez both Clifton, Co residents, were both arrested Saturday, March 11, 2017 with possession of about 26 grams of meth, both were issued bonds after the arrest. This is the case our team decided to move forward with in the investigation because a team member was actually friends with one of the suspects.
The investigative team on the Mireles and Sanchez case are detective Kensi Lingk, and detective Zach Rosenberg. The team is stacked with quizzical minds and determination to catch the bad guys. The investigative team on the Mesa Messenger don’t let any case go to rest. They are highly qualified individuals who seek justice for victims, and like to see criminals put away for their wrong doing. Kensi Lingk has a nose for trouble. Criminal Justice graduate from Harvard, Kensi Lingk has been involved on the drug scene for years, being able to know when and where the busts are going to happen are her specialty. Zach Rosenberg found a different claim to fame. After studying abroad, Rosenberg returned back to the states and has found himself in Grand Junction, Colorado being the top detective and the leading role in the investigation case we are seeing today.
The geographical location of Grand Junction has made it a large target for drug smugglers and drug busts to pass through for years now. Since Grand Junction is right off of a major highway I-70, there is a lot of traffic passing through Grand Junction at all times of the day. Interesting fact is that the town is known for being a good middle point between Denver and Las Vegas, two major cities that are both marijuana friendly. The cops in the Grand Valley are no fools when it comes to drivers passing through the city of Grand Junction with drugs in their possession. That is why the highway state patrol are so hard on the people passing through. They know exactly what to look for, and know when people are acting suspicious if they do so happen get pulled over.
There were five separate arrests made over this past weekend for drugs. Some were being smuggled across the border, and some were busted for possession of them. Either way, all these cases are showing that the drug problem in Grand Junction is in fact a problem. Each of the cases were independent and the amounts of the drugs exceeded the legal limit, in this case only marijuana has been made legal, but meth has been and will be illegal. We spoke with an acquaintance of one of the suspects involved and this is what he had to say. “I never expected him to get caught with such a crime. I worked with the guy for a long period of time and not once did he strike me as a meth dealer. 26 grams of meth is no laughing matter. It is unfortunate to see him get caught but it is fortunate that there is 26 grams of meth off of the street.” When asked whether location had anything to do with such a high amount of smuggled drugs, he said, “Absolutely. Looking at the town, it is small. There aren’t as many cops as Denver. It is right before Utah which makes it a destination in itself. I know drug sentences in Utah are a lot more extreme than Colorado. I think this causes a lot of drugs to be dropped off in Grand Junction. I have never seen meth before and a lot of people talk about how available it is. It’s scary knowing that anyone you have met can be pushing these harmful drugs to others.”
The acquaintance decided to stay anonymous for the interview, for the safety of him and his family. Dealing with drugs, literally and figuratively is no joke. We decided to ask a born and raised Grand Junction Native, and see what he had to say about the problem with the drugs in Mesa County. Skyler Miller, 21 years old has been a Colorado native and Grand Junctionite all his life. He loves the Grand Valley, but has seen some issues while growing up. We decided to ask him the same question on if the location of the city was a prime reason for the drugs. “Drugs are drugs, people will find a way to get them and every city known to man has at least a little bit of drugs floating around. I don’t believe it is because of the location of the city. Yes, being right by the highway is a good indication for people to pull off and distribute drugs here. I think the reason why the problem is so big is because the city is small. Everyone focuses on the big news stories out here, and sadly that’s all this city has to talk about. It’s not because it’s an issue, but because we have nothing else to talk about because nothing goes on in Grand Junction. That is why I believe some people do drugs is because nothing happens in Grand Junction. If we lived in Denver, this story would run for maybe three hours, and no one would really turn a cheek for it because there are more interesting things that happen in a big city.” We then asked him if the drug problem out here is a big deal even if it is a small town, “yes, the drug usage in the Grand Valley is out of control, but it has been for a really long time, and I don’t see any conclusion in stopping the drug problem here.”
These two perspectives from both of the interviewees on the drug problem in Grand Junction has given us an understanding that it may be something that can be un-preventable. With the location being so close to the border, and not so many people live out here has given the Grand Junction a stamp of “bring drugs here please”. However, it’s not going to stop the justice system of serving their duty and stopping and reducing the drug trafficking here. The information given to us has been relevant to the fact that there might have to be more state patrol patrolling the highways more, and even the streets of the Grand Valley. The use of the drugs in Grand Junction can’t necessarily be stopped, but it can be reduced immensely with higher security, and just better knowledge of where, and when people get their drugs from. It was less than a year ago that 30 people were issued warrants for their arrest for their participation in drug trafficking. 30 people in a town this small is a concerning matter in itself. There are many factors that can affect why a person sells drugs. A lot of the time, a person is exposed to drugs and the business of drug dealing at a young age. It is hard to escape a lifestyle that one has known for a large part of their life, which we have seen as an issue to this day. We can’t stop the inevitable that drugs will be around, trying to ban drugs in the country is like trying to ban drinkable water, it’s pointless and it won’t get very far. The investigative team for the Mesa Messenger, have discovered with facts, and will power, that there is indeed a drug problem in Grand Junction, but how we are going to stop it is our next investigative piece. We will go more into the environment of the person, see how the suspect grew up, if they were born into the drug world, or that they found the drug world through other bad decisions. Is it the media that is making a person want to obtain these drugs, or is it all about the payment in the grand scheme of things? Everyone lives off of money, and these drug users and traffickers live off of greed. They live off of drugs to survive, and making a living for their family, and we have noticed this to be a big issue. That some of these drug traffickers do what they do to support their family, but all they are doing is showing their family the wrong ways of living, and submerging them into the drug world, and no way out for these kids, because that is all they know.
Drugs are a problem in Grand Junction, and they have been for a while. In increasing fashion, we see more people being arrested for drugs in the Grand Valley than ever before, and the numbers just keep on growing. Lingk and Rosenberg have investigated as to if there is really a problem with drugs in Grand Junction, and the answer is yes. Just this past weekend, over 60 pounds of marijuana and almost 15 pounds of methamphetamine were confiscated by law enforcement, that is a significantly high number for only three days. This has lead the investigative team at the Mesa Messenger to wonder how many other people slip under the radar. The drugs being pushed has affected the community and families all around Grand Junction. Being from Denver, Lingk and Rosenberg see a large discrepancy at how publicized the drug problem is in Grand Junction. Due to the small size of the town, drug stories are front page news. Skyler Miller brought up a good point by saying the news may not cover drugs the same in both areas. No matter what town it is, there are sure to be drugs lurking around, and we are here to see the end of it.