Being in the top 5 percent of something is generally considered an honor — except when it comes to crime.
The crime rates of both Rockingham and Hamlet were cited as factors in a controversial online post that recently ranked both cities in the top five of the “Worst Places to Live” in the Tar Heel State.
The latest statistics from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation list Richmond County as having the third-highest number of meth lab busts out of the state’s 100 counties. In July, Richmond was ranked No. 2, behind Johnston County.
Another dubious distinction.
In 2014, the SBI responded to 17 labs in Richmond County, and the same number in Stanly County. So far this year, there have been 22.
Just this month, Richmond County sheriff’s deputies have discovered two methamphetamine labs in East Rockingham: one on Wilson Street, the other on Safie Third Street.
The two homes used in the manufacture of the caustic cocktail are less than one mile from each other and in close proximity to Rohanen Middle School.
But as the dark cloud of meth production hangs over the county, there is a bright side: the high number of busts and arrests shows something is being done about it.
Police in Rockingham and Hamlet, as well as the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, made 10 arrests on meth-related charges in the first month of the year. Deputies have charged at least six people with meth possession — two of those for manufacturing — in the last two weeks.
In the February Daily Journal article “Meth on the Rise,” Sheriff James E. Clemmons Jr. attributed the rise in arrests to people in the community reporting drug activity.
“That is one of the residual effects of community policing,” he said. “People nowadays are being more involved in what’s going on in their community…And they’re saying, ‘enough is enough.’”
The most recent bust came from such a complaint, according to deputies.
In March, the sheriff’s office made seven arrests, wrapping up a six-month investigation of county meth cooks. However, there have been several other labs law enforcement has stumbled upon.
Officers have found meth during traffic stops and one lab was recently discovered by detectives looking for a man with outstanding warrants.
A partnership between the sheriff’s office, SBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Greensboro has led to at least 35 federal meth indictments over the past several years. More than 20 Richmond County residents have pleaded guilty to federal charges this year, including four in April and 15 in July.
According to Randy Tysinger, public information officer for the district, six more are scheduled for trial in the coming months.
While the scourge of meth is a tough stain to wash away, it’s evident that those who want to make Richmond County a better place — both civilians and law enforcement — are doing what they can, and their efforts should be applauded.