Bath Salts: Are They Ruining Utica?
This weekend brought news of three batshit bath salts incidents in Utica, New York, continuing a seeming spree of designer drug-fueled rampages in the small town. Seven such reports were issued in the last two weeks.
And just within the past several days, cops responded to calls in which a woman was running naked -- and screaming -- through traffic, a man who thought he was having a heart attack, and a man on a roof, according to media reports.
This comes after news surfaced last week that a Utica woman, high on bath salts, tried to eat a cop.
We wanted to know why, and whether bath salts were a new, bizarro trend. Sgt. Steve Hauk, of the Utica Police Department, talked with us a bit about what's up.
In 2011, he said, his town saw virtually zero bath salts incidents. Already in 2012, he said, law enforcement officers have seen some 50.
That's still less than pot, coke, or opiate incidents -- which he said number in the hundreds or thousands annually -- but more than meth.
But why are bath salts getting bigger, and why isn't meth becoming the stimulant of choice there, like in so much of America?
"Meth is in rural areas typically, because to produce meth is a very dangerous process," he said. "It's a very strong chemical and if you are exposed to it, it can kill you. And if you livd in New York City, you're not going to make it in the Upper West Side without getting caught, that's why it's mostly a rural type drug."
So how does that explain why bath salts -- said to have similar effects to meth -- are gaining popularity in Utica, whereas meth isn't?
Hauk said that Utica and similarly sized small towns which have seen a bath salts boom are not quite rural enough to allow for extensive meth lab development.
Demand for stimulants, however, remains, so bath salts have become a readily available option for high-seekers.
Asked where they come from, he said that most bath salts get shipped to Utica legally, from other states.
He said one of law enforcement's biggest concerns is that New York penal code does not currently punish people for operating vehicles under the influence of bath salts -- so drinking one extra beer, for example, is far more illegal than tripping on the drug and getting behind the wheel.
So there you go: Bath salts are getting bigger in Utica, pop. 60,000-ish, and similarly sized towns. But, they have yet surpassed traditional drugs.
Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.