Crime rates in South Lewis County are experiencing a sharp decrease due to the recent arrest and prosecution of high-level offenders in the area, according to officials with the South Lewis County Task Force.
Task Force organizer and Lewis County Sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Snaza said emergency calls in South County have recently gone down for his department because the local drug trade has seen the loss of such players as Toledo’s Lake Gregson, who was sentenced to 40 months for meth distribution in April, and Winlock’s Justin Ingalsbe, who is expected to stand trial next week for conspiracy to violate the Controlled Substances Act and possession of methamphetamine. Snaza also credited local landlords for taking action to evict drug offenders selling meth out of their rental homes and said current successes could not have been realized without the help of law enforcement entities from Toledo, Winlock, the Lewis County Drug Task Force and the Washington State Patrol.
Snaza added many individuals who are active in drug distribution and related crimes are deciding to move out of South Lewis County due to pressure from the Task Force as well as increasing awareness among residents who are willing to take note of their neighbors’ behavior and report violations as they see them. While some new drug houses are cropping up around the area to replace those that fell before them, Snaza said he and other members of the task force are regularly patrolling such neighborhoods to remind offenders that authorities are seeking actionable arrests against them.
But as local drug users are moving out, criminals from Cowlitz County are moving in and Snaza said it can be difficult to track them down as they stay in the area just long enough to complete their drug deals. He also said heroin from Cowlitz County continues to be found in Lewis County, primarily among young people, and said it continues to be seen as a cheaper—through far more dangerous—alternative to prescription narcotics.
But he added the police departments in Longview, Kelso and the Cowlitz County Drug Task Force are becoming involved to help push this invasion of drug dealers back and said he will continue to focus his efforts on the area as long as authorities continue to see results.