I have compiled what I believe to the 10 most captivating local crime stories of the last year. These are the crime stories that got our readership talking.
The popularity of spice and bath salts hit the tipping point in 2010 as military members substituted the synthetic for marijuana since it left no indicators on urinalysis tests. The problem was the “fake drugs” had real consequences, leaving users confused, violent and often suicidal.
In 2011, federal, state and local authorities began a concentrated effort to ban the synthetic drugs and lock up dealers. First, the Marine Corps issued orders prohibiting troops from using or possessing the substances and declared two dozen stores that sold the drugs as off-limits. Then the Drug Enforcement Administration banned five common chemicals used in manufacturing spice. And the final nail in the spice coffin was hammered on June 1, when North Carolina banned synthetic cannabinnoids, imposing heavy penalties for trafficking and possession.
True to their word that they would not distinguish between sellers of the previously legal substances and drug dealers, local law enforcement began to lock up anyone who continued to sell spice. Several undercover detectives with the Jacksonville Police Department won the Police Commendation Award for their part in an investigation leading to the nation’s second largest seizure of the spice.
Daily News military reporter Hope Hodge chronicled the rising problem and efforts by officials to deal with the situation while exposing the dangers of the popular drugs and the impact on local businesses as one such store that used to proudly advertised “best spice in town” closed up shop.