MURRAY — A lot of methamphetamine has been taken off the streets in just the first two weeks of February.
"We've seized approximately 110 pounds of methamphetamine in the last 14, 15 days, which is about double what we historically seize in the first two months of a year," said Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Salas.
On Wednesday, UHP and the Utah Department of Public Safety held a press conference to announce an astounding — and troubling — rise in the amount of meth that troopers are finding on the road.
The seizing of 110 pounds of meth so far this month is the result of 20 "significant" busts from UHP troopers. Those drug busts — including two that were happening while the press conference was taking place — also included the discovery of 20 pounds of marijuana and 5 pounds of heroin, said Lt. Jared Garcia.
There are several theories about the dramatic rise in meth seizures, Salas said. One factor could be that the price of meth has dropped to its lowest point in 10 years, he said. That means traffickers are more willing to take the chance of being caught because it won't result in as big of a financial loss as it would have in past years.
But Garcia noted that has also resulted in a weird trend over the past year of troopers finding suspects who try to hide their meth in plain sight.
"We're finding it in open areas in the vehicle and that's alarming," he said. "Initially we found it to be very weird. We have several incidents where we just simply located (meth) in duffel bags in the vehicle."
In the past, Salas said investigators would almost have to take a car apart to find hidden compartments. Now, troopers are finding meth in the back seat of vehicles and in the trunk.
The majority of the meth being transported is coming from Mexico and Southern California, investigators believe. Salas said detectives believe most of it is being shipped to other states and is just passing through Utah. He noted, however, that the 5 pounds of heroin seized earlier this month was headed to West Valley City.
While traditionally I-15 and I-70 have been where many of the drug busts have taken place, Salas said troopers are seeing an increase in meth transportation along I-80.
On Wednesday, just before the press conference began, troopers were involved in a marijuana bust on I-80.
The 110 pounds only is from UHP seizures only. Over the weekend, Garland police along with the Box Elder County Sheriff's Office found more than 36 pounds of meth hidden in food jars inside a car driven by a man who contacted police claiming he was being followed.
Utah Department of Public Safety officials say the busts are indicative of the increase in demand for the drug.
"It's a lot of drugs that are flooding our communities. It's important that we continue to be proactive and do our best to take these narcotics off the streets," Garcia said.