Reporter: David Tate
Roanoke, VA - Federal agents have launched a nationwide crackdown on companies that distribute large quantities of synthetic drugs. And that crackdown is already being felt in the Roanoke area.
Police Chief Chris Perkins says there has been a major lull in activity in recent months - showing attempts to get this new drug issue under control are paying off.
In all, agents in 31 states have seized millions of packets of drugs and the components used to make them. $36 million in cash was also seized as part of an all out blitz on synthetic drugs.
As the DEA focuses on the major synthetic drug suppliers, which includes everything from internet sites to huge warehouses... local law enforcement in the Roanoke Valley continues its own education and attack on a problem that is taking the country by storm.
New to the fight in the Roanoke Valley, for the first time, are "bath salt" field tests.
An important tool that will give police a little more ammunition in the fight.
"Right now we're where I would like for us to be and our community is kind of stepping up. There's a lot of people interested in this and I am very pleased," said Roanoke's Police Chief, Chris Perkins.
All of this just as localities are starting to get an idea of the impact of synthetic drugs.
In Roanoke alone - the police are blaming the use of bath salts for an increase in violent crime.
Nine violent crimes are being linked to the drugs.
Then there's a number of uncounted non-violent incidents that police have had to deal with regarding bath salts. They include one recent incident when they were called to downtown Macado's and found a naked man lying on the concrete saying he was trying to cool his body off because he was having a reaction to bath salts that he had just taken.
Police say local shops seem to be cooperating. Couple that with the recent federal effort and street level education, and authorities here are optimistic the page is turning.
"There was a perception that this was a legal high and people did not believe they were doing anything wrong. Once we pointed that out, those that we spoke to, understood that," said Perkins.
Law enforcement at both the local and federal level say that while they believe all of the shops contacted in the area are complying with the law... to make sure, undercover operations monitoring the issue is a daily practice.