Recent raids shine spotlight on La Crosse drug enforcement
The La Crosse Police Department has had a busy month.
Officers helped the FBI with a drug raid on Verchota Street and, less than a week later, the drug unit did a big bust at a house on State Road.
To the public eye, it might seem like this recent enforcement action happened very suddenly. But behind the scenes, these cases have been in the works for about a year.
At the center of all this is Detective Sgt. Dan Kloss, who heads the department's drug unit.
"We're only privy, really, to release about 10 percent of what we do to the media, as far as some things. The public would really be shocked if they knew the volume of drugs going through La Crosse," said Kloss.
He said while the drug unit's efforts might seem more visible right now, the tactics haven't changed. They're still aiming for the big fish.
Not only do these higher-profile cases raise the public's awareness -- Kloss’ hope is the publicity will also deter other dealers.
"We want the dealers in the area, in western Wisconsin and the city of La Crosse, to know that if they want to continue their operation around here, they will eventually get caught at some point in time. And we will develop a strong case on them and take them down," said Kloss.
News 8 talked to a former drug-dealer-turned-police-informant about a year ago. That person said dealers come to La Crosse from the bigger cities because they think the courts here are soft on sentencing.
"The big people in the cities are sending their people to get rid of more product because, I mean, if it's happening in their town, and they're getting punished for it, then why keep it there? Why not send it somewhere where they're not?" said the informant in May 2012.
Assistant District Attorney Ed Minser prosecutes most of the drug cases in La Crosse County.
He said there's really no way to evaluate how harshly La Crosse sentences dealers because the facts of each individual case make it hard to generalize.
"I will say that I've had frustrations at times. But I think that's part of what comes with this job. You know, I'm not going to get everything that I want all the time. That would be unreasonable. If it was always what I wanted, then maybe the system wouldn't be working quite right," said Minser.
That's why Kloss said it's important to make sure police collect enough evidence to build a strong case against a dealer.
But building a strong case takes a long time, which is why he says his voicemail is flooded with messages from frustrated residents who think police just aren't taking action.
Kloss said the drug trade in La Crosse is in the millions of dollars.
About a third of the cases in intake on Monday were drug-related, from cocaine to so-called "bath salts."
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